Utility Dispute Hinges On Bribes

A decision on whether the city of Colton or a Riverside developer must pay for $4.9 million worth of infrastructure in south Colton has been postponed until March.

Bribes developer G.W. Singletary paid to former Colton city councilman James Grimbsy more than a decade ago have seriously complicated the question of who will pay for water and sewer improvements near property Singletary owned adjoining Center Street in south Colton.

Twenty years ago, the now-86-year-old Singletary applied with the city of Colton to develop 13 acres of 680 acres the city had annexed along its frontier with Riverside. He later put in, he claims, sewer and water lines, and paved a portion of Center Street near his property. Those sewer and water lines were not hooked up to the city’s existing system. Nevertheless, Singletary says the city committed to reimburse him for those improvements, which he undertook in good faith. He has said that the city promised to extend utilities to the area, pursuant to the annexation.

When the city did not execute as promised, Singletary in an attempt to get the city to facilitate his project in 1997, befriended Grimsby. The camaraderie between Singletary and Grimsby, it turned out, included the developer’s provision of $5,000 in bribes. When Grimsby was caught up in a much wider bribery scandal that involved other developers, former county supervisor Jerry Eaves, and former Colton city council members Abe Beltran, Don Sanders and then-mayor Karl Gaytan, all of whom were prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office, the bribes from Singletary came to light. In April 2003, the then- 78-year-old Singletary pleaded guilty to bribing Grimsby.

Four years ago, Singletary and the city of Colton sued each other over issues relating to Singletary’s contention that the city failed to deliver on its commitment to provide infrastructure to the area near his property. At issue is who will pay for roughly $5 million worth of water and sewer improvements along Center Street.

One line of defense the city has asserted is that Singletary’s bribery conviction, involving as it did an attempt to corruptly influence a Colton city official, obviated the city’s obligation to provide any infrastructure that would benefit Singletary or his corporate affiliates.

In August, San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge John Pacheco put off until December 20 making a ruling on whether Colton or Singletary will pay for the improvements. on Both Singletary and Colton have sought summary judgments in the case. At the December 20 procedural conference, Pacheco’s authority was attenuated by the consideration that the city has filed with the appeals court in Riverside to reinstate a cause of action in its suit.

The judge rescheduled the hearing on the conflicting motions for March 14.

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