Upland PD Attrition Rate Eclipses Ten Percent Yearly

A recently retired public safety officer residing in Upland has decried what he considers to be Upland city officials’ indolence in the face of an accelerated rate of attrition from the police department that he says is depleting it of seasoned officers and command staff.
“We’ve lost another veteran Upland police officer due to the disarray within police department management,” Steven Bierbaum, who has resided in Upland since 2012, told the Upland City Council at its July 24 meeting. “This time, an officer with 10 years of service has left to go to the Downey Police Department. Two more will be gone in three weeks. One of those officers with 17 years is going to the Ontario Police Department and another with 10 years’ experience is going to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.” Bierbaum had eleven years law enforcement experience in the military and as a civilian with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Pomona Police Department before switching careers to become a firefighter and serving five years with the Pomona Fire Department and then 17 years with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Active in the grassroots group the Upland Coalition of Concerned Citizens, he regularly networks with over two dozen current or retired public safety professionals who live in the City of Upland.
Bierbaum referenced the departure in May of three Upland police officers with a combined 36 years experience in law enforcement, saying, “That’s six officers we have lost in two months.”
In addition, he said, there was another 10-year veteran of the department who left for a position with the Ontario Police Department two years ago.
And, he said, “One year ago we lost one to Apple Valley School Police who was willing to take a 50 percent pay cut.”
Bierbaum said the city was under challenge by a circumstance in which “We have lost eight veteran officers within two years. That represents over 80 years of service to the City of Upland.”
Early this month, Bierbaum said, he learned that four more Upland police officers have declared their intention to leave the city by the end of the summer.
Bierbaum laid the responsibility for the exodus of experienced police officers at the feet of Upland Police Chief Brian Johnson. Johnson was selected as police chief in March 2015, and took on the position the following month. He departed from the Los Angeles Police Department, where after a 26-year career he had risen to the rank of captain and was at that point the commander of that department’s Pacific Division. Johnson has a Master’s Degree in behavioral science from California State University Dominguez Hills and is a graduate of the West Point Leadership Program and the FBI National Academy. He took a pay cut to take the post of chief with the Upland Police Department.
From the outset of his tenure in Upland, Johnson enjoyed good relations with all members of the city council, despite the spirited differences between several of the members of the council that was in place when he was hired. Johnson was also generally well thought of among many of the city’s outspoken residents and other department outsiders who reside or own businesses in Upland. Johnson was lauded for his having prompted stepped-up patrol and enforcement activity shortly after he took the department’s helm. He seemed to effectively blunt criticism of the department being made by homeless advocates who had taken issue with the previous heavy-handed treatment of those living on the streets in Upland, and made a show of compassion toward many of those unsheltered living in Upland, which despite being the county’s tenth largest city population-wise overall among 24 incorporated municipalities, has the dubious distinction of hosting the county’s third largest homeless population. He appeared, at least initially, to deftly navigate the politically treacherous straits between the city’s marijuana availability advocates and an equally vocal and active contingent of city residents vehemently in favor of cannabis prohibition. Ultimately, however, both the marijuana and homeless issues would weary and wound him. With regard to the vituperative battle over cannabis in Upland, accessibility advocates accused him and the department he runs of violating the rights of citizens seeking to maintain availability of the drug to those using it for medical purposes. Those at the other extreme, the marijuana prohibitionists, remarked upon the department’s seeming inability or unwillingness to shutter a medical marijuana dispensary run by Randy Welty, a vice-lord who is the proprietor of the Tropical Lei nude dancing venue at the far west end of town on Foothill Boulevard. While the department and the city had a string of successes in forcing the closure of a number of illicit medical marijuana clinics all over Upland, the marijuana dispensary owned and controlled by Welty next to the Tropical Lei has defied such efforts and its perpetual operation has never been effectively blocked.
Despite the praise Johnson earned from some homeless advocates for his approach with regard to the treatment of the indigent within city limits, a sizable contingent of citizens concerned about the high profile presence of the homeless in city parks, has expressed the belief Johnson has shied away from enforcing important aspects of the law. They say the police department has failed to adequately ensure that municipal codes are enforced at the city’s parks, and that this has resulted in many residents being reluctant to make use of the city’s recreational facilities
Earlier this year, Johnson’s seeming two year honeymoon in Upland came to an end. This was based less on the carping spilling over from the political realm relating to the discontent over the marijuana and homeless issues than challenges emanating from within his own department pertaining to his leadership and command decisions. One complaint is that he has been autocratic and completely unresponsive to employee grievances. Another is that with regard to at least some strategy and tactics, the judgment he has exercised clashes with that of some in the department’s command echelon. Some complained that officers’ safety had been placed at risk as the result of certain department policy changes.
Despite his primacy in the department and the solid support given him by the city council, Johnson stands as something of an outsider in the police department, being the first Upland police chief not to have promoted to the top spot from within the department since Eugene Mueller was persuaded to leave the Pasadena Police Department to become Upland police chief in 1941.
According to Bierbaum, Johnson’s managerial approach has resulted in experienced and talented officers leaving the department.
“Each and every one who left did so mostly due to turmoil and dissatisfaction with the chief of police,” Bierbaum asserted. “The Upland Police Department lowered hiring standards subsequent to his hiring. There have been eight officers that he hired and subsequently fired. An additional four quit because they decided police work wasn’t for them. That is a failure of the management structure within the Upland Police Department.”
The loss of human resources aside, Bierbaum said, Johnson’s management strategy is problematic from a financial perspective.
“It costs about $50,000 to hire an officer,” said Bierbaum. “By one measure, the losses suffered by the city since Chief Johnson was hired equates to about $12 million in lost investments in personnel, salary, benefits, training, overtime and pension costs. Upland is still responsible for the pension costs of those officers leaving or who have left. Chief Johnson has opened the floodgates and the devastation has only begun.”
Bierbaum referenced a major contretemps that occurred within the department in April, what has been described by some as a power struggle, by others as a revolt and by Johnson’s defenders as a legitimate effort to exercise of his authority. The upshot is that the officer who was the department’s second-in-command, another high ranking officer and a veteran line officer have been suspended or otherwise out of commission for four months.
The full genesis of that circumstance is unclear. One report is that a minor insurrection erupted when detective Lon Teague, who has been with the department for 21 years, elected to go out of the established channel of command set up by Johnson in attempting to have concerns by several officers with regard to policy and procedures redressed. Teague, the current Upland Police Officers Association president, approached staff at City Hall, including the city’s human resources director, with those concerns rather than seeking to have the matter discussed within the confines of the department’s senior staff, which Teague felt had little prospect of success. This was because, the Sentinel is told, some of the policies in question originated with Johnson.
Teague was backed in his decision, the Sentinel has confirmed, by sergeant Marc Simpson, who is the president of the Upland Police Management Association.
As a consequence of his action, an investigation targeting Teague was opened, a move which effectively put him into limbo. Simpson, who has been with the department for 23 years, was placed on administrative leave. Thereafter, the second-highest ranking member of the department, captain Anthony Yoakum, sided with Simpson. Yoakum, once considered a potential candidate for police chief, was also put on paid administrative leave.
The ongoing suspensions of Teague, Simpson and Yoakum are an unacceptable strain on a department already severely understaffed and decimated by other officer departures, Bierbaum said. “The dirty little secret is that three officers suspended by Chief Johnson for trying to ‘undermine’ his kingdom are still being ‘investigated,’” Bierbaum said. “Their crime? They did the right thing. They went to the city manager to address the unacceptable direction Chief Johnson has taken our police department. They tried to salvage the Upland Police Department by addressing dozens of their association members’ concerns. How long does an ‘internal’ investigation take? All the while, a sergeant; a detective and a captain are still suspended. Two are the Police Officer Association and Police Management Association presidents. The other is a 29-year veteran and is in charge of operations.”
Bierbaum said, “We have 65 officers on the books, while we are budgeted for 75. We have one of two captains in place, three of four lieutenants and, fortunately, nine of nine sergeants. We have only seven of nine detectives, with two who are injured off at the present time. Among our line officers, we have 44 of 50 at present. This staffing shortage equals 14 percent of what should be our full complement of sworn personnel. Of those numbers, we are missing one motor officer, one recruiter, one narcotics investigator, one community resource officer and two field training officers. When we lose the seven officers in backgrounds, and those are the ones we know of, we will be operating at 23 percent below allotted staffing. Meanwhile, Bierbaum said, the police department is crippled by the lack of personnel, even as important matters that need law enforcement action are being neglected.
“Ordinance 1919 relating to massage parlors was rewritten and reapproved on January 23, 2017,” he said. “What has changed? How many existing illegal parlors have been inspected; licenses suspended or revoked?”
Bierbaum continued, “Ordinance 1910, which prohibits marijuana clinics from setting up in Upland, was vindicated and reestablished by the voters’ approval of Measure E in June. We’re still waiting. The operations in ‘New China’ and ‘Captain Jacks’ are thriving, stronger than ever.”
The malaise that grips the police department has worked its way up the political ladder, Bierbaum said.
“How are we to tackle the issue of transients, drug sales and a multitude of illegal sex shops without police officers, let alone the lack of support at the senior level of city staff?” he asked.
City Manager Martin Thouvenell, who was Upland police chief for 17 years, strongly backs Johnson.
City councilman Gino Filippi, the chairman of the city council’s police and fire subcommittee, has said that Johnson “is an excellent police chief who is doing an outstanding job. Everyone knows that.”    -Mark Gutglueck

During Ten Year Prosecution Delay, CCA Defendants Ran More School Scams

In three weeks the ten year anniversary of the California Charter Academy indictment will be marked. A decade after the two defendants, Charles Steven Cox and Tad Honeycutt, were indicted in 2007 on a combined total of 117 felony charges of misappropriation of public funds, grand theft, tax evasion and filing false tax returns, they have yet to go to trial. Cox faces 56 counts of misappropriation of public funds, 56 counts of grand theft and a single count of failing to file a tax return. If convicted, he could received a maximum sentence of 64 years in state prison. Honeycutt is charged with 15 of the same counts of misappropriation of public funds leveled against Cox, 15 counts of grand theft which were likewise filed against Cox, three counts of failure to file a state tax return and a single count of filing a false tax return. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
Offering gullible parents the promise of an educational alternative that would allow their children to be educated in a wholesome and Christian environment free of the liberal claptrap espoused by teachers under the sway of the state’s teachers’ unions, Cox and Honeycutt signed up enough students to attend the California Charter Academy that they were able in the course of four years to skim some $23 million in public money off the top and channel it into overseas banking institutions, other business ventures, into the their own pockets and accounts and the pockets and accounts of their family members, friends, associates and friends, all the while treating themselves to luxury automobiles and vacation getaways.
There is no guarantee that the case, which has been strung along by one extraordinary delay after another, will come before a jury anytime soon.
Cox, a former insurance executive and the founder of the California Charter Academy, used the faith many parents had in the charter school system to create and quickly expand the academy into the largest charter school operation in California, with multiple campuses located throughout the state. Cox chartered the first academy under the auspices of the Snowline-Joint Unified School District, which exists in the High Desert communities of Phelan and Pinon Hills. He then utilized the enthusiasm garnered from that formation to get Snowline to charter another academy. Cox also obtained two more charter sponsorships, one from the Orange School District in Orange County, and one from the Oro Grande School District, located in San Bernardino County’s High Desert.
The California Education Code provides for the formation of charter schools under the aegis of a sponsoring local school district. Charter schools function outside the normal parameters of normal schools and can offer a curriculum and educational smorgasbord unavailable in traditional public schools while meeting the requirements of both special needs students and accelerated scholars.
Simultaneous to his founding of the non-profit California Charter Academy, Cox created Educational Administrative Services Corporation, a for-profit company which was then hired by all four charter schools to manage the day-to-day operations of the charter schools and provide academic supplies such as books, paper, pens, pencils, desks, chairs, projectors, computers, etc. The rates charged by Educational Administrative Services Corporation reflected in the billings were inflated. In some cases, educational materials that were paid for by the charter schools were never delivered.
Cox hired Tad Honeycutt, who, in 2000 successfully ran for a position on the Hesperia City Council, in time acceding to the position of mayor, to work with the California Charter Academy. Honeycutt was a member of a High Desert political dynasty. His father, Theron, preceded him as a councilman in Hesperia from 1991 to 1995. His mother, Kathleen Viera Honeycutt, represented the 34th Assembly District from 1993 to 1994.
Honeycutt created his own set of companies, Maniaque Enterprises and Everything For Schools, which like Educational Administrative Services Corporation delivered educational materials and services to the non-profit charter schools at a profit.
By 2003, teachers at several of the schools were going public with accounts of how students’ educations were being neglected and books and other educational materials were not being provided. In 2004, the superintendent of the California Department of Education, Jack O’Connell, suspecting financial irregularities, launched an investigative audit into California Charter Academy. In August 2004, four years after California Charter Academy’s creation, it ceased operations abruptly, throwing teachers out of work and forcing students to hurriedly matriculate back into public schools, which were overburdened by the influx of unexpected numbers of students. The California Charter Academy’s records and books were in utter chaos. Student transcripts requested by the sponsoring districts were found to be incomplete or entirely unavailable. The California Charter Academy’s creditors and landlords in many cases made off with the academy’s assets.
On April 14, 2005, MGT of America, an auditing firm hired by the California Department of Education, and the state’s Fiscal Crisis and Management Team released their joint financial audit of California Charter Academy, showing $23 million in taxpayer money paid to the private management companies Educational Administrative Services Corporation, Maniaque Enterprises and Everything For Schools was misappropriated. Among the findings were that Cox had hired several of his family members into what were essentially do-nothing clerical and non-productive administrative positions, that Cox, his family members, other Educational Administrative Services Corporation and Charter Academy employees, and Honeycutt were provided with luxury automobiles, and that among the expenses accumulated by the Charter Academy were accommodations in Las Vegas, at Disneyland and the Disneyland Hotel, studio musical recording equipment, spa visits, fishing trips and jet skis.
Cox made $5.5 million in payments to Honeycutt’s for-profit subsidiary without a vote by the academy board to approve the disbursements. Cox’s take was more substantial, around $17. 5 million.
The audit alleged multiple conflict-of-interest violations, the improper conversion of private schools to public charter schools, and the falsification of documents and claims to receive public funds
“The magnitude of waste of precious education funds outlined in the audit was appalling,” said O’Connell.
In late July 2007, a grand jury was impaneled and began inquiries into the California Charter Academy’s operations. On September 4, 2007, Honeycutt and Cox were arrested after being indicted by that special grand jury for their alleged roles in the collapse of the California Charter Academy. Cox and Honeycutt were indicted on a total of 117 counts, including fraud, misappropriation of public funds and grand theft. Cox’s bail was set at $1 million, while Honeycutt’s was logged at $500,000. Both were able to post bail. Law enforcement officials froze their assets, but little of the missing money that officials thought might be recovered was present in their accounts in local banking institutions. It is known that Honeycutt had made multiple trips to Vanuatu, Spain and Argentina in the early and mid-2000s. Some of the taxpayer money provided to the California Charter Academy was used to fund lawsuits brought by Cox and Educational Administrative Services Corporation against public entities. In one case, Cox and Educational Administrative Services Corporation filed suit against the California Department of Education, contending the state had illegally withheld funding from the California Charter Academy. Cox and Educational Administrative Services Corporation did not prevail in that suit. Cox brought another unsuccessful lawsuit alleging impropriety and political motivation on the part of public officials whose actions led to the closure of the California Charter Academy.
According to Christopher Casey, who had been hired by Cox to run one of the academy’s vocational schools, “Steven Cox started out as if he was interested in improving education. Tad talked up the charter school idea to get more students and more schools, telling everyone charter schools were dedicated to better education. But when it turned into just a money-making venture, Tad didn’t have the personality or character to handle it and he just went along with everything Cox was doing.”
The California Charter Academy fell crucially short in the provision of key educational materials, Casey said.
Casey said, “With my own money – my credit card – I set up a home builders school in San Bernardino. I had thirty or forty students signed up. We had the class schedule set and I couldn’t get books. I was working with Jim Melton. I asked. We never got one book. I pleaded for the books. I didn’t see any results. I couldn’t get books. They weren’t focused on that. I said to them, ‘These are the texts I need.’ I asked them to provide resources. They never did. They just prolonged it and prolonged it and put it off. I started the school hoping they would be seriously focused on education, but when I found out what they were really doing I lost heart and got out of it.”
It was dishonest and reprehensible, Casey said. “A lot of money went into it,” he said. “They had a tremendous opportunity and instead they just used it to take money out of it. They had some outstanding people who wanted to do the job but their hands were tied.” Part of Cox’s formula, Casey said, was to “get heavy into politics. [Former California Assemblyman] Keith Olberg went to work for the California Charter Academy. [Former San Bernardino County Supervisor] Bill Postmus was their major political asset.”
A series of miscues, procedural and judicial, along with the corrosive pull of political influence prevented the criminal case against Cox and Honeycutt from being fast tracked from the start.
Honeycutt, through his parental connections as well as his affiliation with Bill Postmus, was active in Republican politics, and was involved in raising money that was used by a number of officials, including judges, to get into office. Several judges at the Victorville Courthouse declined to hear the case involving Honeycutt or any of Postmus’ political allies, recusing themselves.
Cox and Honeycutt came before Judge Margaret Powers for arraignment. The case was then handed over to Judge Eric Nakata. An effort to recuse Nakata ensued, however, and at the intervention of then-presiding judge Larry Allen, the case was transferred back to Powers. Subsequently the case was heard by judges Miriam Morton, John Tomberlin, Jules Fleuret and Arthur Harrison. Eventually the case went to Judge Jon Ferguson in Rancho Cucamonga.
The trial timetable suffered a setback in November 2010, when Cox’s attorney, Earl Wade Shinder, committed suicide. That was more than six years ago, however, and the delays continue. Attorney Grover Porter has represented Honeycutt for more than nine years, and Geoff Newman, Cox’s fifth lawyer, are sufficiently up to speed on the case to proceed to trial. More than two years ago, Porter made a motion to withdraw as Honeycutt’s attorney of record. That motion was denied by Judge Jon Ferguson, who said there was no legal basis for the withdrawal.

There are roughly 52,000 pages of discovery and 459 anticipated trial exhibits. Some 80 witnesses testified before the grand jury, including Postmus, his successor as supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, Hesperia School Board Member Eric Swanson,and then-Victorville Councilwoman Joanne Almond.

The case against Cox and Honeycutt is a strong one, with bank records, receipts, hotel and resort registrations, airline ticket records, vehicle registration and multiple witness statements demonstrating that millions of dollars in funding intended for educational purposes was diverted to pay for vacations, vehicles, recording and video equipment, jet skis, lease or pay for real estate acquisitions or cover political campaign expenses.
The prosecutor on the case is Michael Fermin, who was a deputy district attorney when he was assigned to carry it forward in 2007. After the retirements of former assistant district attorneys Dennis Christy and James Hackleman, Fermin was elevated to the position of assistant district attorney overseeing, as the office’s second-in-command, a major portion of the office’s administrative duties, including the budget and human resources. Today, Fermin has only one remaining prosecutorial assignment: the California Charter Academy Case against Cox and Honeycutt. Indeed, the California Charter Academy case, involving allegations of $23 million intended for educational purposes being diverted to unauthorized, improper or illegal use, is one of the most important cases, if not the most important one, in Fermin’s career as a prosecutor. Fermin has deferred a number of the district attorney’s office’s appearances in the case to deputy district attorney John Thomas.
For reasons the district attorney’s office has chosen not to clarify, it has delayed again and again and again and again in moving the case to trial, despite its potential for boosting Fermin into the legal stratosphere. There have already been 35 pretrial hearings held.
The case originated at a time when there was a much different political lay of the land than exists now. The shift in the political pecking order, and the degree to which the district attorney’s office shielded the now-defunct political dynasty that ruled the roost in 2007 when the case was filed, explicates at least in part the cause for the delay.
By 2004, Bill Postmus had acceded to the position of chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors. Almost simultaneously, he had become the chairman of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee, exercising control over Republican Party endorsements and the delivery of GOP money to local Republican candidates for political campaigning purposes. In 2006, with two years left on his second term as supervisor, Postmus ran successfully for county assessor against the incumbent, Donald Williamson.
In 2007, while Postmus was yet one of the most powerful political figures in the county, Fermin made a politically driven decision to leave Postmus out of the indictment. Since that time, information implicating Postmus that was then available to the district attorney’s office has become widely known to the public, information which shows Postmus was embroiled in the California Charter Academy Scandal at multiple levels.
Cox emerged as one of Postmus’ major early political supporters, having contributed $25,450 to his political war chest when Postmus was running for supervisor in 2000, utilizing California Charter Academy money to make those donations.
Postmus was appointed by Cox to serve as a member of two of the boards of the charter schools functioning under the aegis of the California Charter Academy. Postmus then used his status as a charter school board member as a feature in his resumé when he first ran for supervisor.
Action Postmus took, based upon his actual authority as a board member or carry-over authority as a former board member and close affiliate of Cox, became the focus of the grand jury that was impaneled in 2007 and which indicted Cox and Honeycutt. Irrefutable evidence emerged to show Postmus made efforts to ensure that members of his family as well as his political supporters were rewarded with jobs or contracts at or with the California Charter Academy.
Evidence was produced to show that Postmus directed Cox or otherwise arranged, both while he was a charter academy board member and afterward, for money to be diverted to Brad Mitzelfelt, who was Postmus’ chief of staff when he was supervisor, and Keith Olberg, a former state assemblyman who was a key Postmus political ally, in the form of questionable or illegal payments. Postmus worked as district director in Assemblyman Keith Olberg’s High Desert office from 1995 until 1999.
In 2002, Postmus was provided with an all-expenses paid trip to Florida by Cox, who used California Charter School funds to pay for the trip, accommodations and spending cash, which totaled more than $17,000. No explanation of what the trip was for was ever provided.
In 2001, Bill Postmus Sr., the father of Bill Postmus the supervisor, went to work for Cox as the director of/lead instructor in the academy’s criminal justice and leadership program. While Bill Postmus Jr., had assiduously abstained from voting as a member of the board of supervisors on matters impacting the California Charter Academy, he broke from that pattern in June of 2004 as the state was withdrawing funding from the California Charter Academy and his father was in danger of being thrown out of work. At that point, Bill Postmus, Jr. voted to have the county forward a $77,000 Workforce Investment Grant to the California Charter Academy in an effort to keep the school where Bill Postmus Sr. was the principal in session.
At supervisor Bill Postmus’ insistence, Cox hired former California Assemblyman Keith Olberg and had the Charter Academy and Educational Administrative Services Corporation pay him more than $375,000 over three years, ostensibly to develop an “Honors Program” for the academy’s schools. Olberg, according to the audit, did virtually nothing on that project and the so-called honors program was never instituted.
Postmus similarly insisted that Cox endow political action committees he and Mitzelfelt controlled with money to support Mitzelfelt’s future political candidacies as well as those of another Postmus ally, Anthony Adams, who served two terms in the California Assembly.
Eight years ago, Postmus fell from grace, having been downed by drug use, extortion and bribery scandals. In 2011, he pleaded guilty to 13 felony corruption in public office charges unrelated to the California Charter School case, along with a single misdemeanor narcotics violation.
The district attorney’s office has declined to comment on reports that it is delaying the prosecution of Cox and Honeycutt because of emerging questions about Postmus’s involvement in that scandal and indications that political considerations rather than a cold hard analysis of guilt or innocence entered into the prosecutor’s office’s decision about who would be charged in the California Charter Academy matter.
One difficulty for the district attorney’s office vis-à-vis Postmus was that he was a central witness in another high profile criminal case, the political corruption, extortion and bribery prosecution pertaining to the 2006 vote by the board of supervisors to confer a $102 million settlement on the Colonies Partners Development Consortium to settle a lawsuit that company had brought against the county over flood control issues at the Colonies at San Antonio residential and Colonies Crossroads commercial subdivisions in northeast Upland. Postmus was charged in 2010 with taking $100,000 in bribes from the Colonies Partners in exchange for being one of the three members of the board of supervisors to approve that settlement. He initially pleaded not guilty to those charges but in 2011 pleaded guilty and agreed to turn state’s evidence against four others in the case – his one time board colleague Paul Biane, who voted with him to support the settlement with the Colonies Partners; Mark Kirk, the chief of staff to the other member of the board, Gary Ovitt, who supported the settlement; Colonies Partners managing partner Jeff Burum, who is accused of furnishing bribes to Postmus, Biane and Kirk in the form of campaign contributions; and former sheriff’s deputies’ union president Jim Erwin, who was accused of assisting Burum in extorting Postmus and Biane through blackmail and threats prior to the vote on the settlement. That case went to trial in January and has yet to conclude, with closing statements scheduled to begin next week and the case to go to the jury for deliberations perhaps as early as August 26. Postmus testified for the prosecution in May. Nevertheless, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office does not want to initiate the trial in the California Charter Academy case until after the verdicts are in for the Colonies case because of the possibility that defense attorneys in that matter will make an attack on Postmus’ credibility, word of which might reach the jurors in the Colonies case, and impact their deliberations and ultimate verdict.
A sidelight on the California Charter Academy prosecution is the consideration that two years after the indictment of Cox and Honeycutt, Cox, in league with several others, replicated what he had carried off with the California Charter Academy, albeit not on as large of a scale.
In 2009, the Postmus Political Machine was in its last throes, its leader having been exposed as a drug addict, a revelation which resulted in his February 2009 resignation as county assessor. But those who had manned that machine were yet angling for money, even as political power was slipping from their grasp.
Cox, working as a quiet adviser functioning from the shadows, put together another charter proposal, this time selling the idea to the Adelanto School District. Participating in the free-for-all were Cox; Postmus; Postmus’ one-time chief of staff, Brad Mitzelfelt, who had succeeded him and at that point remained as First District supervisor; Dino DeFazio, a friend of Postmus and the owner of D & D Real Estate and other real estate businesses, including Tri-Land, Inc, in which he was a partner with Postmus; Jessie Flores, a former field representative for Postmus and a then-field representative for Mitzelfelt; Adam Aleman, who was formerly one of Postmus’s field representatives and later one of Postmus’s assistant assessors, occupying the third highest ranking position in that office despite his relative youth, 23 years, and lack of experience, until he was arrested in 2008 and then convicted by a plea admission in 2009, the circumstances of which precipitated Postmus’ subsequent arrest, removal from office and conviction; Hesperia Unified School District Trustee Anthony Riley, a Postmus political ally; Sentry Home Loans owner and Boys and Girls Club President Helene Harris and her husband Hendon Harris; Mitchel E. Pullman, a principal in Arrowhead Properties, IV, LLC; and Peggy Baker, Charles Steven Cox’s sister-in-law.
After Cox prepared the articles of incorporation, the Adelanto Charter Academy was chartered by the Adelanto School District on August 19, 2009. Functioning on a model not very different from that used by the California Charter Academy but on a less grand scale, Cox, Postmus, Mitzelfelt, DeFazio, Flores, Aleman, the Harrises, Pullman and Baker utilized the position of trust they had been vouchsafed to funnel money to themselves or the companies they controlled. In the roughly 15 months the academy was running without any oversight, they managed to loot the operation of more than $2 million that should otherwise have gone toward the education of students but instead was diverted to activities, purchases and disbursements having no conceivable academic application, such as the provision of limousines to the participants by Flores, the owner of Diamond Limousine. The Adelanto Charter Academy contracted with Professional Charter Management, Inc. to have the latter perform administrative services in return for 15 percent of all Adelanto Charter Academy revenues.
According to the California Secretary of State, Professional Charter Management, Inc. was a corporation with Jessie Flores as its chief executive officer and Dino DeFazio in the capacities of chief financial officer and secretary and Kari Murdock as agent for service of process. Kari Murdock is the the niece of Charles Steven Cox.
In December 2010, Jessie Flores filed, under penalty of perjury, a certificate of dissolution for Professional Charter Management, Inc. Records, however, show that Professional Charter Management, Inc. continued to receive payments from the Adelanto Charter Academy after that dissolution.
According to records obtained by the Sentinel, the Adelanto Charter Academy contracted with Educational Development, Inc. to perform administrative services in return for 5 percent of all Adelanto Charter Academy income from September 1, 2009 until June 30, 2014. It is not clear whether or how the administrative activities carried out by Educational Development, Inc. either meshed, or conflicted, with the administrative services provided by Professional Charter Management, Inc.
In November 2010, an audit cataloging significant shortcomings in the school’s operations was released, showing the academy had diverted some $2.2 million from educational purposes to the coterie of Postmus’ one-time political hangers-on. On May 17, 2011, the Adelanto School District revoked the charter it had granted to the Adelanto Charter Academy. The Adelanto Charter Academy immediately appealed the decision to the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools, who upheld the Adelanto School District’s decision on August 1, 2011. The Adelanto Charter Academy appealed that decision to the California Department of Education and continued to operate until notified on April 17, 2012, that “your administrative remedies are exhausted” and “any further appeal of revocation must be sought in a court of local jurisdiction.”
Recognizing that moving the matter into such a forum might well lead to further indictments, those behind the operation threw in the towel, having diverted somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.1 million to their own pockets and bank accounts.
The brazenness with which those involved acted is further illustrated by Honeycutt’s seemingly nonchalant behavior in the aftermath of the indictment, as well.
In 2012, a half decade after his indictment but with the case remaining in interminable limbo, Honeycutt sought to again exploit the loopholes in California’s charter school regulations to recreate what had been the most lucrative run of his life. Changing the vowel in his first name from a to e, and adopting his mother’s maiden name, Viera, Honeycutt founded Innovative Academies, billing it as “a learning network platform for private schools in the USA to globalize and connect to students throughout the world.”
Under the guise of “Ted Viera,” and assuming the modest titles of manager and then director of field operations, Honeycutt did not hesitate to think big and go beyond the confines of California to cash in.
“We are actively seeking key ‘Sister School’ partnerships globally with schools, tutoring centers, student recruitment firms, and other education organizations,” he wrote in making his pitch.
The company had 17 employees and was actively pursuing partnerships with schools in mainland China and Taiwan, arranging to accredit students for classes taken in venues outside of the country where the academic institution they were attending was located.
The company offered, Vierra told his prospective clients, specialized academic services such as a “dual diploma program, globalization, education management, and English learning.”
Students signing up with Innovative Academies could access the institution’s “Learning Network Platform,” its website claimed, and through it students could earn “a second high school diploma from an elite private school in the United States.”
The company’s website, InnovativeAcadamies.org, is no longer functional.   –Mark Gutglueck

ICEMA Head Makes Subtle Move Toward End Of Ambulances’ Exclusive Operating Zones

Some four decades ago, what was then San Bernardino County’s largest ambulance consortium – Mercy Ambulance – established a political hammerlock on the region. That company, through generous donations to the county’s top local elected officials, was granted key franchises that made its operation very lucrative. In turn, the company would use a small percentage of the profits it was generating to increase the scope of its political contributions. In return, the grateful politicians ensured that Mercy retained its competitive advantage over its rivals, giving Mercy plum franchises in the county’s most heavily populated areas.
Mercy had formed in the late 1970s, when Terry Russ, Homer Aerts, Steve Dickmeyer and Don Reed, all of whom operated ambulance companies on the west and central portion of San Bernardino’s Inland Valley and had been competing against one another for years, smoked a peace pipe and resolved to merge their operations into one, consolidating and streamlining their dispatch service, and better coordinating it with the local fire and police departments. Through efficiencies and the sharing of resources, they were able to overwhelm the other ambulance operators they were in competition with, lower their prices, and induce most of those competitors to either go out of business, merge with them or sell out to them. After pooling their money and initiating a program of making substantial political contributions to local politicians at both the city and county level, Russ, Aerts, Dickmeyer and Reed They then used this newfound political clout and influence to have both the county board of supervisors and various city councils “regulate” the ambulance industry, which included essentially adopting the vehicle, equipment and employee training standards Mercy had in place as the minimum requisites for an ambulance operation within their jurisdictions. The politicians were able to do so by asserting that this enhanced public safety.
As Mercy solidified and expanded its domination of the local ambulance industry and it grew to become preeminent among the county’s campaign donors, the county and many of its cities moved to create franchises in which a single ambulance company was allowed to operate and from which any other companies were prohibited from operating. Not surprisingly, in San Bernardino County Mercy was granted the lion’s share of these exclusive franchises, not to mention the most lucrative ones.
As Mercy grew, so did the scope of its operations and its power. The company added helicopters to its line of service and extended its reach all over 20,105 square mile San Bernardino County – a land area the size of four New England states. But as Russ, Aerts, Dickmeyer and Reed aged and grew wealthier, they began, slowly at first, to disengage from and then inevitably pulled out of the stressful emergency response business entirely. A first step in that direction was selling off – at considerable profit – the Mercy Air wing. Thereafter, they sold or let their heirs take on the ground ambulance fiefdom that Mercy represented, and they withdrew into a retirement of luxury and comfort.
The new kid on the block was American Medical Response, a company which came into the region from elsewhere. American Medical Response, or AMR for short, filled the vacuum created by Mercy’s exodus. Simultaneously, AMR took a leaf out of Mercy Ambulance’s playbook, and it too made hefty political contributions. Over time, ICEMA – the Inland Counties Emergency Medical Agency – which oversees emergency service provision issues in San Bernardino, Mono and Inyo counties, would confer upon American Medical Response favored status in San Bernardino County that would rival that of Mercy Ambulance a generation before. Because it was ICEMA rather than the board of supervisors that drove the move to grant AMR its position at the top of the ambulance service heap, it at first glance appeared that AMR had achieved that favored status straightforwardly and without the interference of political influence or favoritism. The reality, however, is that ICEMA’s governing board consists of the five members of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors. So, by making contributions to the supervisors, AMR has been able to keep its nest feathered.
That feathering consists of what are referred to as exclusive operating zones. Thus, there are extensive areas in San Bernardino County where one ambulance company has not only primacy but a virtual monopoly in that it, and only it, is authorized and licensed to function there under normal circumstances. The ostensible rationale for granting these monopolies is that operating ambulances is an expensive proposition, not to mention one that is crucial to public health and safety. Competition between ambulance companies has the potential, so the reasoning goes, of driving down the prices those companies charge to the point that their operations will not be profitable enough for them to remain in business. Upon these ambulance companies going out of business, the public would be put into a position where there would be insufficient emergency medical transportation service available to ensure public safety. Thus these arrangements – the exclusive operating zones – have been established.
Some dispute that the exclusive operating zones are necessary, and they assert they are rather a ploy by which county politicians have further inculcated a pay-to-play ethos into the county’s governmental function. Among those critics of exclusive operating zones are some who maintain the monopolistic system has long endangered public safety. One of those was the county’s firefighters union, known as Local 935, which late last year suggest the exclusive operating approach has on occasion created critical shortages in the High Desert’s ambulance transport system.
Last month, in what some have hailed as an act of courage, Tom Lynch, the administrator with the
Inland Counties Emergency Medical Agency, brought forth a proposal that is seen as a first step in undoing the reliance upon exclusive operating zones in San Bernardino County. Nevertheless, Lynch’s action was very measured and low key, as it represents a blow against the pay-to-play ethos that is so ingrained in the approach of his political masters.
That subtle move came with Lynch asking the board of supervisors to approve an agreement with Schaefer Ambulance Service, Inc. authorizing “advanced life support and basic life support special event transportation services within San Bernardino County for a period of one year effective July 30, 2017.”
To be sure, Schaefer Ambulance is a major ambulance service provider in its own right, one of the largest such companies in adjoining Los Angeles County. Schaefer has had limited function in San Bernardino County over the years and currently takes up the slack in the far northeast extension of San Bernardino County. The concept Lynch put forth is that ICEMA and San Bernardino County formalize an agreement and a policy of letting Schaefer come into AMR’s exclusive operating zone during so-called special events, when the circumstances and demands on AMR may overwhelm its resources.
According to Lynch, “A special event is defined in the county code as: ‘Any situation where a previously announced
event places a grouping or gathering of people in one general locale sufficient in number, or subject to activity that creates the need to have one or more ambulances at the site.”
Still subtly, Lynch slipped into the proposal letting others beside Schaefer move into AMR’s exclusive operating areas during these special events. “This agreement is non-exclusive,” his report to the board stated. “Other advanced life support and basic life support ambulance providers in San Bernardino County have been authorized to staff special events. This agreement also does not prevent any other providers interested in seeking authorization to provide special event transport services from applying for medical control authorization if they desire eligibility to staff special event transport services outside of their own authorized area.”
The item was placed on the board of supervisors’ consent calendar at its July 25 meeting and was at first deferred but then approved unanimously as amended.
Lynch was cagey about celebrating the vote as a victory toward undoing the county’s reliance on exclusive operating zones. Asked what the county’s rationale for the exclusive operating zones was, Lynch said, “To provide organized ambulance coverage.”
Asked how often special events occur, Lynch said, “They occur frequently, but not necessarily daily.”
He deftly moved around a question as to whether the vote taken on July 25 betokened a change in the custom of utilizing exclusive operating zones. “I’m not sure what you are asking, but there are no changes proposed,” he said. The Sentinel then pressed Lynch, asking him point blank, “Is this the first step toward eliminating exclusive operating zones?”
“No,” Lynch tersely responded.
Lynch said that California Health and Safety Code Division 2.5 gives the government authority to grant an ambulance company an exclusive operating license as well as excluding another company that meets all of the equipment, training, licensing, and competency requirements from plying its trade in that zone.
He told the Sentinel that the ability of a non-franchised ambulance company to monitor dispatch broadcasts to put it on the footing of actually being able to respond to emergency calls is something that falls under Federal Communications Commission rather than county or regional regulations and law. He said that California Health and Safety Code Division 2.5 could be brought to bear to keep a non-franchised ambulance operator from horning in on a franchised ambulance operator’s territory.
The Sentinel asked Lynch to what extent the political largesse of the companies granted exclusive operating licenses influenced the decision makers – i.e., the board of supervisors – in granting exclusive operating permits and whether he was alive to the specter of political favoritism hanging over the process of granting those exclusive operating permits.
“County staff would not be in a position to know or speculate about what factors are taken into account in the making of policy decisions,” Lynch said. “The role of county staff is to provide policymakers with sound professional advice and then implement the resulting policies.”
-Mark Gutglueck

SBC Community Salutes Valor Of Fallen Firefighter

Brent Witham

Brent Witham

The San Bernardino County Community yesterday paid its last respects to Brent Witham, the Redlands East Valley High School graduate who took up the career of working to combat wildland fires and died in the full bloom of his intensity while carrying out one of his intrepid missions.
Witham, 29, was one of 2,260 hotshot crew members in the United States. Hotshotters hike, ride or parachute into remote areas at the periphery of a conflagration, carrying equipment with which they attempt to create fire-
breaks to arrest the advancement of flames. It is an extremely dangerous and physically demanding assignment that requires intense and exhausting physical training.
Witham was killed on August 2 while the crew he was with, the Vista Grande Hotshots, based in Idyllwild were engaged in suppressing the Lolo Peak Fire, burning in the Lolo National Forest in western Montana. Witham’s end came when he was crushed by a falling tree.
“Our hearts go out to Brent’s family, friends, fellow Vista Grande Hotshots, the Forest Service, and the entire wildland fire community,” said San Bernardino National Forest Supervisor Jody Noiron. “Brent was a hardworking professional, who was eager to learn and be the best that he could be. He will be missed by all he touched.”
U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell said “My heart and thoughts go out to his family, crew and friends today, and I ask you to keep his family and friends in your thoughts as well.”
Witham began his firefighting career in 2011 as a member of the Tahquitz hand crew, based in Riverside, according to a spokeswoman with the San Bernardino National Forest. In 2013, he became a firefighter assigned to Engine-56. In 2015, he upped the ante, becoming a member San Bernardino National Forest’s Vista Grande Hotshots. Most recently he was assigned to the Vista Grande base in Idyllwild near Mt. San Jacinto in Riverside County.
After his death, as his remains were being transported to the Missoula Airport, from whence to be flown to California, several hundred people we’re on hand as his flag-draped coffin arrived and was loaded into an airplane.
At the National Orange Show in San Bernardino on Thursday, several hundred firefighters and other mourners packed the auditorium there for a public memorial service. He was lionized as a courageous firefighter who gave everything for his chosen profession.
His sister Jannell Giordano told the firefighting community that had assembled there that “You were a second family to him,” saying her brother was a “Teddy bear” of man she admired and looked up to.
A spokesman for the Witham family said, “We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of care and support that family, friends and community members have expressed regarding Brent’s recent passing. His death was a terrible shock to all of us and we are still navigating through the disbelief. It helps to know how many lives Brent touched with his great sense of humor and ability to make others laugh, his way of turning people’s weaknesses into strength, and his overall love for life.”

Half Of A Million Dollar Investment To Hold Death At Bay Along Hwy 62

The City of Twentynine Palms is set to spend more than half of a million dollars to install a traffic signal at the treacherous intersection of Lear Avenue and Twentynine Palms Highway.
Highway 62 – also known as Twentynine Palms Highway – is the major arterial through that portion of the Mojave Desert. The top legal speed on its remote stretches is 70 miles per hour. Many motorists on those extended journeys tend to move at a rate well beyond that. When they come into the populated sections along the highway – Morongo Valley, Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms, they tend to reduce their speed, but in many cases insufficiently. Adding further to the formula for mayhem is that depending on the time of year at certain times of the day – roughly between the hours of 6 a.m. until 9 a.m., and again from 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. – the sun is positioned low enough toward the horizon to blind, in the morning, eastbound travelers, and, as afternoon recedes into evening, westbound travelers.
There have been numerous tangles of metal and flesh at or near the corner of Lear Avenue and Twentynine Palms Highway over the years.
On December 2, 2016, Samantha Reyes, 19, of Joshua Tree was killed and Edward Danny Sheetz, 50, of Rancho Cucamonga, was severely injured when they were involved in a head-on collision between Two Mile Road and Indian Trail around 6:10 a.m. Reyes was dead at the scene.
On February 18, 2009, Patrick Reed, 29, of Twentynine Palms was riding his motorcycle east on Highway 62 at about 65 miles per hour at 5:52 p.m. when he collided with a vehicle driven by Jason Robert Reyna of Twentynine Palms, who was making a turn from the highway onto Indian Cove Road. Reed died at the scene.
Collisions along the highway do not occur exclusively during daytime. On April 12, 2014, Lance Cpl. Cory Coumbes, 24, a rifleman stationed at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms who was a passenger in a Kia Soul, was killed in a two-car collision at the intersection of Lear Avenue and Two Mile Road about 3 a.m. The Kia Soul was T-boned by a Honda Fit that ran a stop sign. Coumbes, who had recently returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, died at the scene.
In addition, there have been numerous accidents along the highway that have maimed, crippled or otherwise severely injured motorists.
The City of Twentynine Palms, having long contemplated installing signalization there, some time ago secured an easement for the placement of the traffic signal.
The Twentynine Palms City Council on June 29 gave city manager Frank Luckino clearance to finalize arrangements with Elecnor Belco Electric to erect a traffic signal at the intersection, authorizing the expenditure of $540,274 toward that end. That money will come from Measure I funding – the half-cent sales tax override earmarked for transportation projects that has been in place in San Bernardino County since 1989 – as well as from the State of California through CalTrans, the California Department of Transportation.
Luckino has met with the Elecnor Belco’s principals and engineers. The project will entail the use of poles that have been customized for the purpose and location. Preliminary specifications have been laid out during the preconstruction discussions.
It is anticipated that it will require up to three months to construct and install the poles. An issue when the installation begins will be ensuring that the impact on traffic flow and potential visual obstructions while the work is ongoing will not add to the traffic hazard.
In the meantime, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, which provides law enforcement services to the City of Twentynine Palms under a contractual arrangement, has stepped up speed limit enforcement along Twentynine Palms Highway. This has resulted in a reduction in the average speed of vehicles along that stretch, although occasional motorists yet race by in a blur reaching 60, 70 and even 80 miles an hour.
Another issue along Highway 62 is the lack of medians. This has resulted in drivers sometimes making unsafe passing of slower cars in front of them, cars drifting into oncoming lanes or drivers attempting make turns across the highway at inadvisable locations.

Forum… Or Against ’em

By Count Friedrich von Olsen
By now, faithful readers, you know that I am a tried and true conservative, a Republican, a Tory, a traditionalist, a Bonapartiste. It should go without saying that in my old guard, hidebound ways I am anything but a bleeding heart liberal. But there is, alas, one issue upon which my heart pours forth blood. I cry for the wild horses…
Right now in Congress a decision awaits that will have grave consequences for these noble creatures. I am calling for all of you with blood coursing in your veins to do something, to yell from the rooftops, to grab your fellow man in the streets by the lapels, to pick up your pens, to use your phones, to communicate with your Congressman or Congresswoman and demand human compassion for our equine brothers and sisters….
A bill that is to fund the Department of the Interior would allow the Bureau of Land Management to euthanize free-roaming mustangs and burros. An agriculture funding bill is purposed to reopen horse slaughterhouses across the fruited plain. I am torn as to which is worse…
The Appropriations Committee approved on July 18 the first bill, which funds the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency in fiscal year 2018. An amendment made by the horribly misguided Congressman Chris Stewart, of Utah, lifts a ban on the destruction on wild horses just as long as they are not killed for commercial reasons. I abide by the 11th Commandment, “Thou shalt not speak evil of a fellow Republican,” but, God forgive me please, I am sorely tempted in this case to tell everyone what a low form of guttersnipe politician Mr. Stewart is…
The Bureau of Land Management persists in asserting that the wild horse and burro population is unsustainable. Its statistics show there are an estimated 72,674 burros and wild horses as of March 1, 2017, what these infantile adults claim is 47,000 beyond the level the federal land upon which these defenseless creatures roam can reasonably sustain. These people say that this population is bringing grief to these wild horses and burros, that they are suffering. They say the only way to help the horses and burros is to kill the horses and burros…
These bills are wrongheaded and have the potential for undoing the protections that were given to horses and burros in 1971, when the United States passed the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act…
I have already adopted hundreds of these horses and sent them to my spread in Wyoming. Next week, I am dispatching my chauffeur, Anthony, first to Arizona and then to Nevada. He has the assignment of hiring a transport and some cowboys so we can round up as many horses as we can and take them away from those who mean them harm…
I am calling upon all of you, my friends and readers, to do what you can to end this interspecies injustice before our collective humanity falls further into a state of unconscionable disrepair. Demand of your Congressman or Congresswoman that all means of adoption encouragement be exhausted before these horses are exterminated…

Chaffey College

Chaffey College 1885Higher education in Ontario had its roots in the city’s inception. In 1882, George Chaffey dedicated 20 acres at the corner of Fourth Street and Euclid Avenue for a college of agriculture. Under a trust agreement with the University of Southern California, provisions were made to enhance the site with more buildings. The cornerstone of Chaffey College was laid on March 17, 1883, and construction in earnest began in January 1884. The building was constructed using more than 300,000 bricks. Within its confines were a chapel, four large lecture rooms, eleven offices, a library and a museum The college opened in October 1885 with 10 students. By 1890, the courses emphasized classical studies instead of agriculture. For financial reasons, Chaffey College’s connections to the University of Southern California ended in 1901. Thus, it converted to what was called Ontario High School.

First Chaffey Library The library at Chaffey College in its early years.

Chaffey Campus 1916The Chaffey Union High School District was created in 1911. George Chaffey provided the district with an $8,000 endowment and Ontario High School became Chaffey High. Between 1909 and 1916 the original three-story building underwent remodeling, and a separate library and auditorium were added. New construction provided science and mechanical arts classrooms, as well as administration quarters. In 1916, the Chaffey board acquiesced in having a junior college co-located on the high school campus. That year, Chaffey Junior college opened with 100 students. Chaffey High School still exists on the site. Chaffey College move to Alta Loma in 1961.

The Sid Robinson Investigation File

After the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office’s Public Integrity Unit began an investigation into Upland City Councilwoman Janice Elliott’s allegations that the city council engaged in Brown Acts violations last May, information pertaining to the Upland City Council and its members beyond what Elliott had initially provided came to light. That information pointed to a tie-in between the Brown Act violations which Elliott had highlighted in her complaint and conflict of interest allegations pertaining to councilman Sid Robinson. The Ralph M. Brown is California’s open public meeting law which requires that all official business of a governmental entity take place in public, with five exceptions – discussion relating to potential or ongoing lawsuits, real estate transactions, contract negotiations, employee discipline or firing, and employee public union collective bargaining. The City of Upland had and still has a contract with the City of Upland to provide public relations, communications, strategy formulation and crisis management services. Robinson, who ran unsuccessfully for the Upland City Council in 2016, was appointed to the council last December to fill the void on the council that was created when Debbie Stone vacated her council post to become mayor. After Robinson took his place on the council, he voted numerous times to approve payments the city made to the 20/20 Network. An outgrowth of the Brown Act violation investigation was further inquiry into the relationship between Robinson and the 20/20 Network. Investigators came across information showing that Steve Lambert, a principal in the 20/20 Network, had been present during closed door meetings by the city council in which the discussion had strayed beyond the topics permitted for such meetings, which allegedly constituted violations of the Brown Act. Subsequently, the city council voted to strip councilwoman Elliott of three of her most prestigious adjunct committee assignments, a move widely seen as retaliation for her having tattled to the district attorney’s office about the alleged Brown Act violations. Lambert assisted Mayor Debbie Stone in writing the speech she gave at the June 12 council meeting in which she justified the concerted action to remove Elliott from her committee assignments.

Above is Exhibit G, the schedule C page on the California Form 700 economic interest disclosure document Sid Robinson filed with the Upland city clerk last January. This shows that Robinson worked as a subcontractor with the 20/20 Network, which has a contract with the City of Upland to provide public relations, communications, strategic planning and crisis management services. District attorney’s office investigators initially looking into alleged Brown Act violations by the city council became focused on the professional and financial relationship between Robinson and the 20/20 Network because of the potential conflict of interest issues attending that circumstance. As a councilmember, Robinson on several occasions approved payments to the 20/20 Network. Robinson and Steve Lambert, a principal in the 20/20 Network, insist those payments do not comprise a conflict of interest because the city entered into the contract with the 20/20 Network before Robinson joined the council, Robinson never voted to enhance or continue the contract, Robinson ceased being a subcontractor with 20/20 before he joined the city council, and Robinson was never an owner, never previously had and does not now have any financial interest in the 20/20 Network.

Above is Exhibit G, the schedule C page on the California Form 700 economic interest disclosure document Sid Robinson filed with the Upland city clerk last January. This shows that Robinson worked as a subcontractor with the 20/20 Network, which has a contract with the City of Upland to provide public relations, communications, strategic planning and crisis management services. District attorney’s office investigators initially looking into alleged Brown Act violations by the city council became focused on the professional and financial relationship between Robinson and the 20/20 Network because of the potential conflict of interest issues attending that circumstance. As a councilmember, Robinson on several occasions approved payments to the 20/20 Network. Robinson and Steve Lambert, a principal in the 20/20 Network, insist those payments do not comprise a conflict of interest because the city entered into the contract with the 20/20 Network before Robinson joined the council, Robinson never voted to enhance or continue the contract, Robinson ceased being a subcontractor with 20/20 before he joined the city council, and Robinson was never an owner, never previously had and does not now have any financial interest in the 20/20 Network.

Information about that investigation began to circulate by June and when word of the council’s action against Elliott reached the district attorney’s office, it prompted investigators there to make an examination of Elliott’s report of the Brown Act violations with renewed vigor. On July 21, the Sentinel published an article that reported on the investigations and the issues being focused upon. Steve Lambert, Sid Robinson and Upland City Manager Martin Thouvenell took exception to the Sentinel’s report, and in short order lodge demands for retraction with the Sentinel. Lambert, a former newspaper executive, called the Sentinel’s journalistic coverage of the investigation irresponsible, misleading, false, damaging to his company’s reputation, defamatory and libelous, characterized the presentation as “wildly speculative and conspiratorial” and further asserted the reporting upon the investigation and the background behind it was done “all without corroboration.” The gist of the article, he said, was “unsupported by facts” and was “a clear defamatory distortion of the truth.”
Lambert took further issue with the article’s description of the April 24 and May 8 closed sessions of the Upland City Council during which the Brown Act violations under investigation by the district attorney’s office occurred, stating that the article “wrongly characterizes my involvement in closed sessions as alleged violations of the Brown Act.” Thouvenell said the article contains “malicious and inaccurate statements.”
Beginning with its July 28 edition, the Sentinel has been marshaling the documents and materials upon which the research for the July 21 article was based, publishing in serial format exhibits within the district attorney’s office’s case file on the investigation into the Brown Act violation and Sid Robinson’s relationship with the 20/20 Network. Documents already published include exhibits A, B and C, the minutes to the April 24, 2017 Upland City Council meeting, the agenda for the May 8, 2017 Upland City Council meeting and a document entitled “In House Policies of the Upland City Council,” which was discussed and signed by the Upland City Council members during the closed session of the May 8 meeting, respectively. These illustrate the substance that was at the basis of the original investigation into the Brown Act violations. Last week, the Sentinel published exhibits D, E, and F, respectively, the minutes from the May 8 council meeting; the agenda for the June 12 meeting containing the agenda item to remove councilwoman Janice Elliott from three of her committee assignments; and the minutes of the June 12 meeting in which Elliott was in fact removed from those committee assignments. These further illustrate the basis upon which Elliott made the Brown Act complaint and further demonstrate the swiftness with which the remainder of the city council retaliated against her after making that complaint.
This week the Sentinel is publishing exhibit G, Sid Robinson’s statements of economic interest showing his status as a “subcontractor” with the 20/20 Network.
While examining the individual investigative file exhibits separately or in installments may provide the casual reader with insufficient context upon which to make any type of judgment, the reader should be able to orient him or herself to the germane issues by finding a copy of the July 21 Sentinel and reading the article “Robinson Denies Upland’s Contract With His Affiliate Constitutes A Conflict” and the July 21 and 28 editions of Sentinel which included Sid Robinson investigative file exhibits showing how the original Brown Act investigation evolved so that the circumstance involving councilman Sid Robinson and his relationship to the 20/20 Network came focus for the investigators.
Hereafter, the Sentinel will publish exhibits H, I and J, respectively, a narrative from Steve Lambert hailing Sid Robinson as having joined the 20/20 Network as one of its public relations professionals; the page from the minutes of the April 24 Upland City Council meeting in which Robinson was appointed by his council colleagues as the city’s representative to the Southern California Association of Governments; and a press release produced for the Southern California Association of Governments authored by Steve Lambert as part of the 20/20 Network’s contractual work for that entity.

The California Harvester Ant

California Harvester AntThe California harvester ant or Pogonomyrmex californicus is a species of ant in the subfamily Myrmicinae found in Sn Bernardino County and which proliferates in the Mojave Desert. This ant is native to North America, where it occurs in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. As the ant that is sent out in Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm, it may have established colonies in North America and elsewhere that are outside of its native habitat. The natural range of this ant extends from Texas to Utah, Arizona, Californai to Baja California, Sonora, and Chihuahua.
The California harvester ant is typically found in warm and open sandy areas. Either individually or in swarms or columns it will forage by day, preying upon arthropods and dead insects and collecting seeds and vegetation.
Pogonomyrmex californicus is a rapidly moving forager, which makes extensive use of thermal refuges such as small sticks or stones that allow it to enter a cooler layer of air and shed heat. Their average foraging distance is from ten to 18 feet from the nest. They concentrate their foraging in a single spot to optimize their activity and limit the time they spend in this activity and maximize energy returns. They are attentive to trying to collect the most profitable seeds, in terms of seed size.
The ants “harvest” the plants in their nesting areas by snipping off the seeds with their mandibles. These seeds are stored in subterranean or mound chambers within the nest, a warehouse of sustenance for the society through the winter.
Its colonies encompass hundreds or up to a few thousand of individual ants. They nest in sandy soil surrounded by a loose earth arranged in a circular or semi-circular pattern, generally in areas fully exposed to the sun. The entrances to those nests are often irregularly shaped. Some are beneath stones, whereas others are surmounted by soil craters or by small to huge mounds with or without coverings of gravel. In addition, the workers of some species alter the area peripheral to the nests by clearing away the plants, felling them, bit by bit, with their powerful mandibles.
Territories are well defined in populations where nests density is high. Interactions can occur between neighboring colonies, resulting in colony relocations. Nests may be overdispersed because a colony will resolve to move its nest further away from the nest of a neighbor.
As with most ants, the pogonomyrmex californicus abides in colonies sustained by one queen, but on occasion the California harvester ant has been known to form multiple-queen colonies in which the population remains in obeisance to more than one queen in a cooperative, a phenomenon known as pleometrosis. The multiple queen population of this species is striking in a exhibiting a number of unusual characteristics. First, most ant species that contain multiple queens arrive at this route through colony founding by a single queen, known as haplometrosis. It is only after a colony is well established that secondary queens are allowed to enter the nest. Adding additional queens is called queen adoption
Once a colony reaches a late stage in its founding process, the multiple queens that are part of a pleometrotic founded colony typically do not persist. The queens will fight among themselves for control of the nest, or the workers will begin to kill individual queens, or both of these behaviors occur. The result is a single queen gaining exclusive control over egg laying within the colony.
Reproduction occurs around July, when reproducing individuals are present.
Harvester ants are hot climate specialists. They are present almost everywhere in the Mojave National Preserve with the exception of blackbrush scrub between 1,000 and 5,700 feet. They are present in every month of the year and their populations have been surveyed in depth at or near Budweiser Spring, Granite Pass, Kelbaker Road, 1.5 miles east of Baker, Kelso Dunes, Rock Spring.
In most Pogonomyrmex californicus nests, the population consists primarily – well in excess of 95 percent – of workers. The California harvester ant is of smaller than average stature and sports coarse cephalic and thoracic rugae, the interspaces of which are strongly shining and faintly or not at all punctate. The petiolar node is short and rather broad, and it has a prominent nipple and a steep anterior declivity. The body is a concolorous, rather light, ferrugineous red. The sides of the propodeum are smooth and shining and there are no propodeal spines, teeth or denticles present. The California harvester’s rate of respiration gives it the ability to withstand relatively high temberatures, extending to as high as 124 degree Fahrenheit. This high heat tolerance of Pogonomyrmex californicus is coupled with a relatively small body size relative to most other Pogonomyrmex species. Being small assists workers in releasing heat more rapidly. This temperature tolerance is of significance since the ground where these ants forage can be well above 108 degree Fahrenheit during daytime.
With eastward progression in the range of harvester ant, the number of workers within individual nests decrease in number, spacing, and coarseness of cephalic rugae; often take on interrugal punctures on the head and pronotal humeri; show a decrease in gradient of the anterior declivity of the petiolar node; and evince the development of a more spatulate petiolar node, the sides becoming more convex. Further eastward migration of this ant has resulted in a reduction of the petiolar nipple and a tendency toward the development of a ventral petiolar peduncular process, the lengthening of both petiolar and postpetiolar nodes, a reduction in size of the postpetiolar ventral process; an increase in over-all size; and infuscation of the gaster in some or all of a series, from lateral spotting to concolorous black or brown.

Grace Bernal’s California Style: Something About Pink

Style 08 11While white, green, blue, and yellow tend to be summer favorites it seems that pink clothing has become quite fashionable this season. Pink has been around for a while and it tends to come and go but lately the sidewalks are full of pink hats, tennis shoes, swim suits, dresses, and tops. Everyone from city travelers in swimsuits, to party people, and even cyclists are thinking pink. My personal favorite has been the rose quartz pink. It’s just “wow!” The color pink has long been associated with Easter but it’s made it into the summer this time and it is looking fabulous on the streets. It really adds a peaceful and happy balance to any outfit. There’s something about the color pink that is just so pretty and summer really has everything to do with it. How cool is pink? Cool enough to probably take us into the winter season and be the choice color over red. Have fun, stay cool, and pretty in pink.

“I don’t think I will ever get tired of wearing pink.”  Emma Bunton