San Bernardino Mayor & City Council Terminate City Manager Montoya

By Mark Gutglueck
The San Bernardino City Council voted on Wednesday evening to terminate City Manager Charles Montoya, more than six months after his October 2023 hiring. The vote to do so was made unanimously, citing no cause for the action.  Pursuant to Section 11.7 of his employment contract, his termination without cause entitles Montoya to collect a specified severance equivalent to 12 months of his base salary, or $325,000.
Montoya’s sacking comes less than four months after he unilaterally signed a letter of intent with the San Francisco-based bond underwriting firm Stifel Financial Services in preparation of the issuance of some $120 million in municipal bonds to be utilized for various improvement and infrastructure projects in the city, including the seismic retrofitting of City Hall, which has been shuttered since 2017.
Previously employed as the city manager of Watsonville in California and the town manager of Florence, Arizona, as the city manager of Avondale, Arizona, the finance director and treasurer with the Town of Castle Rock in Colorado, and the chief financial officer for both Centennial, Colorado and for Jefferson County, Colorado, Montoya was hired in October after a city manager recruitment effort in the spring and summer of 2023 that attracted 57 applicants. That headhunting effort was marred by multiple glitches, including some shifting attitudes with regard to ending the recruitment altogether and settling on hiring the interim city manager who had managed the city previously, Charles McNeely. McNeely’s early sentiment against taking the permanent position, followed by his change of heart to wanting to step out of retirement to again take on the top administrative role in the city he left in 2012, along with the commitment the council had made to not hire the interim city manager into the full-time post thwarted his belated candidacy.
An effort by Mayor Helen Tran to have the council accede to hiring her one-time boss when she had been the human resources director in West Covina, former West Covina City Manager David Carmany, for a time interrupted the city manager hiring process. The council as early as July seemed to have reached a consensus to hire Stockton City Manager Harry Black, but a lack of security with regard to the information entrusted to the firm the city hired to carry out the recruitment, Berkeley-based Koff & Associates, led to Black being identified as an applicant for the San Bernardino post, prompting him to withdraw from consideration. Continue reading

Clemmer In As Victorville’s Fire Chief

City leaders are hopeful that Bobby Clemmer, who was just selected as the Victorville Fire Department’s eighth fire chief since 2017 and seventh since its 2019 resurrection as a municipal entity, will give the department some permanency in terms of its leadership.
Officials believe Clemmer, who grew up in the High Desert and is an Apple Valley High School graduate, will prove a good manager of fire safety and emergency medical response operations in Victorville.
Some are saying that the department, once considered the premier fire prevention agency in the Victor Valley, was cursed by the move more than a decade-and-a-half ago to dissolve it, despite the department’s revival five years ago.
Victorville, which in 1962 was the third of San Bernardino County desert cities to incorporate following the 1913 creation of Needles and the 1947 founding of Barstow as municipal entities, at that time was indirectly dependent upon the county fire department, which provided supervision of the team of volunteer on-call firefighters that composed the newly-formed city’s fire department, which had existed pre-incorporation in one form or another since 1926. In 1976, the city recruited Rudy Cabriales, a one-time border patrol agent with the Immigration and Naturalization Service who had transitioned to a career as a firefighter in his hometown of Calexico before rising to become the fire chief of Coachella in Riverside County, to relocate to Victorville and become fire chief of an operation morphing from being a county-supervised team of volunteers to a professional department. Cabriales built that organization into what some considered to be a model fire protection agency. He retired after 21 years as fire chief in 1997.
In 2000, Cabriales was elected to the city council. Continue reading

Lawyer Questions Constitutionality Of Fontana’s Political Sign Ordinance

The City of Fontana has passed an ordinance imposing a monetary burden on political candidates of dubious constitutionality which will have the practical effect of benefiting the city’s well-fixed incumbent officeholders and disadvantaging those seeking to unseat them, some of the city’s residents and a civil rights/free speech lawyer have opined.
Going forward, those running for elective office, either in Fontana or for local, county, statewide or national office, will need to lay out a potentially refundable $1,000 deposit if they plan to display campaign signs within Fontana’s current 42.4-square mile city limits.
According to the resolution the city council approved on May 14 in putting the ordinance in place, the city is merely “implementing a campaign sign deposit,” which “has been identified as a measure to ensure accountability among candidates and reimburses the city for costs associated with removing non-compliant campaign signs.”
In the run-up toward the passage of the ordinance, according to the city, all legal requirements for previewing and the regulation and enforcement of the policy was met when “the city council called a public hearing for March 26, 2024, for informational purposes and to receive public comments on the proposed fees. Notice of the public hearing was given by publication in a newspaper of general circulation within the city.” Continue reading

Why We Had to Petition Fish and Wildlife to Protect Strawberry Creek

By Steve Loe
In September 2013 alarmed retired Forest Service employees (Gary Earney and myself), who had worked for the San Bernardino National Forest for over 50 years combined, raised a concern about the taking of so much water from Strawberry Creek, at an elevation above 5,000 feet in the San Bernardino Mountains, during the most severe drought in over 300 years. Nestlé was diverting all of the natural spring flow from the most productive springs in the watershed under a long-expired special use permit with few protective measures.
The public was being forced to ration water during this drought, while Nestlé was taking every drop from the springs that shared some of the same groundwater as the mountain communities of Crestline, Lake Gregory and Lake Arrowhead. Flows downstream to the San Bernardino Valley and Bunker Hill Basin for domestic use were being reduced by Nestlé while the Valley residents were rationing water.
Many threatened, endangered and sensitive Forest Service species are currently and were previously located in the Strawberry Creek drainage and are dependent on year-round water. The habitat for these species, including the southern rubber boa, the least Bell’s vireo, the southwestern willow flycatcher, the mountain yellow-legged frog, and the California spotted owl has been significantly degraded by Nestlé, its corporate predecessors and its corporate successor, BlueTriton, for over 90 years. Imperiled native fish species have been wiped out in large part due to removal of such large amounts of water in the summer months. Strawberry Creek was home to the Santa Ana speckled dace and likely the Santa Ana Sucker and the Arroyo Chub. Speckled dace were eliminated from the stream in 2003 in large part from spring water removal and lack of summer flows, after being there for thousands of years. Other more common species such as deer, bear, songbirds, rare plants and insects have been adversely affected by the spring and stream diversion.
Drying the vegetation below the communities by taking all the water from the upper watershed is increasing the fire threat to the communities. Continue reading

Garcia Arraigned In Murder Of Gunnery Sergeant McDonald

18-year-old Rudy Garcia, Jr. has entered not guilty pleas to murder, attempted carjacking, attempted robbery, two attempted murder and two assault with a semi-automatic firearm charges stemming from the violent rampage he engaged in on Monday night, May 20 in Twentynine Palms, which left Robert McDonald, a Marine, dead.
McDonald was shot in the culmination of a flurry of acts that took place just after sunset that evening.
According to the sheriff’s department, Garcia was one of a group of four or five young men who were consuming alcohol and creating a disturbance in the vicinity of Alpine Road and Old Dale Road. Around 7:49 p.m., they belligerently confronted a resident, at which point the man testily responded, provoking Garcia, who produced a gun and fired several shots at the man but missed.
After the gunfire, the group scattered, with most of the others heading north and west and Garcia running southeast toward nearby Knott Sky Park. McDonald was parked in his vehicle with his dog near the dog park at the south end of Knott Sky Park near El Sol Avenue and Foothill Drive. Garcia came up on McDonald and, according to the sheriff’s department, “without provocation” and in an apparent effort to steal his car, shot the 35-year-old gunnery sergeant in the head. Continue reading

A Way Out Of Prosecutorial Dead End In Villaseñor Case?

After cataloging through a multitude of alternative approaches, including a few that skirt ethical boundaries that are as problematic as promising, San Bernardino County prosecutors have at last, it appears, constructed a face-saving solution to the prospect that their case against Sebastian Bailey Villaseñor would evaporate into oblivion.
Villaseñor, 18 of Eastvale, was a senior at Ontario Christian High School when he was arrested on February 10 on suspicion of having violated PC 422(A) – engaging in threats of violence.
The arrest came after Villaseñor’s sister, Isabella Villaseñor, who also attended Ontario Christian, on February 8 spoke with one of the school’s counselors, Mitch Stutz, about an exchange she had that morning with her brother in the school parking lot. When the subject of another student who attended the school came up, Isabella said, Sebastian expressed irritation, characterizing the coed as being haughty and dismissive of his advances, clenching his fist as he did so, and then told his sister not to talk about the other girl.
When Isabella told Stutz about what had happened, she expressed concern over what her brother might do. She added that she knew her brother had access to their father’s firearms and that over the Christmas break she had seen Sebastian posing with some of their father’s rifles in selfies he was taking. When Isabella further stated that her brother obsessively watched videos relating to school shootings available on the internet, Stutz consulted with Ontario Christian High School Principal Benjamin Dykhouse.
Dykhouse and Stutz contacted the Ontario Police Department, and detectives obtained a warrant to examine Sebastian Villaseñor’s on-line and social media activity. Continue reading

Letter To The Editor

It’s been a pleasure to serve my community in San Bernardino as an independent pharmacist for nearly a decade. I grew up in this area and made the decision to work for an independent pharmacy over a larger chain because of the strong ties I felt with this community and because it allows me to relate more personally to our patients.
Since starting at ArrowCare Pharmacy nine years ago, I’ve seen firsthand the increasingly negative impact that pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) have on patients. Pharmacy benefit managers’ business practices reduce patients’ access while forcing costs and out-of-pocket expenses even higher. Congress needs to address these harmful PBM policies before things get any worse.
Pharmacy benefit managers will often secure significant discounts or rebates on prescriptions directly from drug manufacturers. These savings could and should be passed down to patients at the pharmacy to help reduce their out-of-pocket expenses and make their prescriptions more accessible. However, it’s far more likely that pharmacy benefit managers will simply absorb these savings. Pharmacy benefit manager practices are truly a shame – as they pull out all the stops to exploit the good parts of our healthcare system, whether it’s rebates or the 340B program.
The 340B Drug Pricing Program is a U.S. federal government program that requires drug manufacturers to provide outpatient drugs to eligible health care organizations and covered entities at significantly reduced prices. The intent of the program is to allow covered entities to stretch scarce federal resources as far as possible, reaching more eligible patients and providing more comprehensive services.
To curb predatory pharmacy benefit manager practices, Congress must pass pharmacy benefit manager reform legislation like the Delinking Revenue from Unfair Gouging (DRUG) Act, which would increase transparency and accountability among pharmacy benefit managers. California’s leaders in Washington, D.C. should help push for passage of the Delinking Revenue from Unfair Gouging Act in this Congress. Many patients cannot afford another year of waiting for their lawmakers to act.

Denise Diaz
San Bernardino, CA 92494