In his run for Third District county supervisor, James Bagley is lagging well behind the incumbent, Neil Derry, and the other challenger in the race, James Ramos, in terms of campaign funding.
Nevertheless, Bagley maintains that his extensive experience in a multitude of capacities and positions in government render him the most qualified of the candidates.
Bagley was a member of the Twentynine Palms city council for three four-year terms from 1992 to 2004, including three two-year terms as mayor. Even before the city incorporated in 1987, Bagley was a board member of the Twentynine Palms Water District. As a council member and mayor, Bagley served on multiple intergovernmental boards and commissions and joint powers authorities, including stints as the chairman of the Local Agency Formation Commission, which hashes out jurisdictional issues within the county, and San Bernardino Associated Governments, known by its acronym SANBAG, the county’s transportation agency. He was also a member of SCAG, Southern California Associated Governments, the region’s major intergovernmental planning agency. While he does not currently hold elective office, he is a member of the county airport commission, which oversees the Daggett, Chino, Apple Valley, Twentynine Palms, Needles and Baker airports.
“I have an extensive local government background,” Bagley said. “I was a water board member back in the 80s, which gave me a close understanding of county special districts. I served three terms on the city council, including three terms as mayor. I was a longtime member of LAFCO, where I was chairman, and I was chairman of SANBAG. If I am elected to the board of supervisors, I will bring to the position a very mature set of skills. I will rise into a leadership position to use the office to represent the cities of the Third District. That experience is important because we need to have someone with a vision for constructive change.”
Bagley said he did not believe the challenges facing the Third District were much different than those facing the other districts in the county.
“Employment is the biggest issue facing our community,” he said. “Anything the county can do to make economic development a reality will benefit the community.” He did say that the Third District, as the second largest geographically of the county’s districts, easily qualified as the most diverse in terms of character of the communities themselves. “The district includes mountain areas, the desert, agricultural and rural communities along the foothills, urbanized downtown San Bernardino and the more suburban areas in the cities of Highland, Loma Linda, Redlands and Yucaipa. All of those places have unique issues, so it will require someone with not only a knowledge of the district but how to apply government. As the chairman of SANBAG, I saw what a good tool the county’s transportation agency is in facilitating the improvement of infrastructure. Improving roads and creating better access is a critical role for one of the largest districts in the county geographically. I think I have the understanding and experience to represent all of those unique communities on the board.”
Bagley made only passing reference to his opponents in the race. That comment was most pointed with respect to the incumbent, Derry. Obliquely, Bagley hinted at a criminal case that had been lodged against Derry last year relating to the handling of a $5,000 political donation by Arnold Stubblefield to Derry during his 2008 campaign. The state attorney general’s office originally alleged that the matter involved the laundering of campaign money through a political action committee that was under the control of then-county assessor Bill Postmus and that Derry had committed two felonies, including fund laundering and perjury, and a campaign reporting misdemeanor. Before the matter went to trial, however, Derry entered a no contest plea to the less serious misdemeanor charge of failing to properly report a campaign donation and the two felony charges were dropped. More directly, Bagley indicated that Derry had received money from the Colonies Partlners, a development company that built a controversial commercial and residential project in northeast Upland in the early 1990s and then sued the county over flood control issues at the project. The county board of supervisors by a 3-2 vote in November 2006 conferred a $102 million settlement on the Colonies Partners to bring that litigation to a close. But the state attorney general’s office and the district attorney have now alleged that the settlement was tainted by extortion and bribery. In an original 2010 indictment and a superseding 2011 indictment, it is alleged that Colonies Partners managing principal Jeff Burum in conjunction with former county sheriff’s deputies union president Jim Erwin first blackmailed Postmus and Paul Biane, who were then members of the board of supervisors, and then bribed them with rewards of $100,000 donations to their political action committees after they voted for the settlement. Postmus last year pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy, yielding to extortion, soliciting a bribe and accepting a bribe. Burum, Erwin, Biane and another individual named in the indictment – Mark Kirk, who was the chief of staff to supervisor Gary Ovitt when Ovitt joined with Postmus and Biane in approving the $102 million payout to the Colonies Partners – have all pleaded not guilty to the charges in the indictment and are awaiting trial.
“Countywide there has been a problem with ethics on the board of supervisors,” Bagley said. “Too many officials are interfering with good government. Transparency in government is a critical issue at every level. The Colonies scandal is a symptom of the lack of transparency. The Colonies scandal is one of the reasons I am running for supervisor. Mr Postmus and Jim Erwin have direct connections here, and are tied to Mr. Derry. The current representative of the Third District has used his position for less than honorable purposes. I am running to offer constructive change to lead the board of supervisors in a better direction, toward good, effective governance that is free of the scandal that has impacted the board for decades.”