Board Of Supervisors Accepts Own Pay Reduction Measure For November Ballot

SAN BERNARDINO—With nary a comment, county supervisors this week approved the placement of an initiative on the November ballot to cut their salary and benefits from $270,000 per year to $60,000.
Advocates of the measure, which was drafted and  initially sponsored by Wrightwood resident and former grand jury member Kieran “Red” Brennan, needed to obtain the valid signatures of ten percent of the county’s electorate – 43,520 – to qualify the initiative for the ballot. Brennan’s effort was boosted when the union for the county’s general employees, the San Bernardino Public Employees Association, and the union for the county’s sheriff deputies, the Safety Employees Benefit Association, took up his cause and utilized union money to hire petition gatherers.  Three weeks ago supporters turned petitions containing 73,672 signatures over to the registrar of voters, who examined enough of those petitions and compared the signatures contained thereon against voter-registration documents to ascertain that the threshold to qualify the measure for the ballot had been achieved.
The only options left to the supervisors were to pass the initiative on a vote of their own, agree to place the measure on the November ballot or to delay doing so for a month while an analysis of its impact was undertaken. They chose to simply place it on the November ballot without discussion.
In addition to reducing their salaries from $151,000 per year to $50,000 per year and reducing their benefit packages from an average of $119,000 per year to $10,000 per year, the initiative if passed will limit their staff budgets to $250,000 each.
The pay reductions envisioned in the measure will not be applicable to those supervisors elected in the 2010 or current election cycles. Because the measure will not be considered until November, when voters will also be voting on who will serve as supervisor in the First, Third and Fifth supervisorial districts, those cuts would not go into effect for those office holders until after the 2016 election if the measure passes. The incumbent supervisors in the Second and Fourth supervisorial districts, Janice Rutherford and Gary Ovitt, would be subject to the reductions after the 2014 election if the measure passes.

Rialto Council Approves 30-Year Lease Of Water System To N.J. Company

The Rialto City Council this week voted 4-to-1 in favor of entering into a 30-year lease of the Rialto municipal water system with New Jersey-based American Water Works Co., Inc.
Under the terms of the deal, American Water Operations and Maintenance, Inc., a division of American Water Works that will function as a local company known as Rialto Water Services, will take over operation and maintenance of the water district. The city will retain the district’s water rights.
The company would further take on all aspects of operations, maintenance and billing, effectively running both the water and sewer utilities for the next three decades.
Water and wastewater division employees will be allowed to transfer into the city’s engineering or public works divisions if they wish, remaining as city employees with their public pension plans intact or can go to work with American Water, which would be required to guarantee those employees will remain employed for at least 18 months with salary and benefits equal to those offered by the city. That guarantee would sunset after 18 months
American Water Works is a for-profit investor-owned water and wastewater utility company. According to city officials, the company has agreed to make somewhere in the neighborhood of $45 million in upgrades to the water system. American Water has also agreed to assume all debt owed by the city’s water utility division and fund all needed infrastructure improvements to the system.
In return, city officials have agreed to a 114.8 percent increase in water and wastewater rates by 2016, such that the average water bill of Rialto households utilizing 17,000 gallons per month will jump from the current rate of $26.27 per month to $64.14 monthly and increase the wastewater treatment fee from $25.97 to $61.46 as of January 1, 2016.
Four-fifths of the city council indicated they had come to the conclusion that the arrangement with American Water is the only viable means of salvaging the decaying municipal water system.
Councilman Joe Baca Jr., who previously joined with councilwoman Deborah Robertson in opposing the American Water contract last year, was the only vote against it on Tuesday. He said the rate increases were too high and would fatten the company’s profit margin.
Mayor Grace Vargas, who because of a health-related absence missed the vote in June resulting in a 2-2 deadlock, joined with Robertson, councilman Ed Scott and councilman Ed Palmer to approve the lease arrangement on March 27.
Roughly half of the residents in this city of 99,171 are municipal water district customers who will now become American Water customers. The other half get their water from the West Valley Water District.
City residents will yet have an opportunity to reject the rate increases by means of a mail vote to be conducted by the city. If more than 50 percent of the ratepayers return the mail-in ballots rejecting the increase, it will not go into effect.

Deputy District Attorney Honored For Effort Toward Combating Truancy

Deputy District Attorney Agnes Murray was recognized Thursday at the 14th Annual “Shine a Light” on Child Abuse Awards Breakfast for her work with at-risk children in San Bernardino County. The annual event, hosted by Children’s Network, is held at the end of March as a kick-off for Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month in April.
“Agnes is deserving of this award because she is improving the lives of students who might otherwise be led down the wrong path, and she deeply cares about the impact truancy has upon our community,” said supervising deputy district attorney Mary Ashley.
Murray joined the District Attorney’s Office in 1989 and is currently assigned to the truancy program, where her goals include improving school attendance for previously truant students and discouraging future truancy. She also teaches for the FLIP Academy (Fontana Leadership Intervention Program) and sits as an active member on the mentoring task force and Project Comeback for Colton Unified School District and the state School Attendance Review Board.
When necessary, Murray prosecutes the parents who, after all other voluntary efforts have been exhausted, continue to refuse to send their children to school.  This important step is taken to intervene in order to save a child from the inevitable grim path of not attending school and ultimately becoming a part of the juvenile delinquency problem.
According to Murray, her goal is to reduce the negative impacts caused by truancy and juvenile delinquency.
“It is always nice to be appreciated and recognized, but I do what I do because I want to make a difference in the lives of at-risk children,” said Murray. “I am very lucky to have supervisors who inspire me and give me the opportunity to do what I love.”

McNeeley Becomes Casualty Of Political Shift On SB City Council

SAN BERNARDINO — City Manager Charles McNeely resigned Thursday, effective May 1, an apparent casualty of the interminable struggle between the city’s two warring political factions.

Charles McNeely

McNeely, who had been city manager in Reno, Nevada for 13 years, was highly recruited by the city and hired by San Bernardino in March 2009, taking up his stewardship of City Hall in June 2009.
He was provided with an annual salary of $275,000 per year and a $15,000 up-front relocation fee. In addition to his salary, McNeely was given $73,000 per year in health, retirement and other benefits.
Valued for his strong leadership skills, McNeely for some time set the tenor at City Hall, making a ten percent giveback of his salary as part of an effort to convince other city employees to make salary and benefit concessions on their collective bargaining contracts. He emphasized city government going back to basics, such as redressing potholes that plagued city streets and maintaining street lights and other infrastructure. He championed what he called SB Direct, a call center to facilitate the handling of city residents’ requests for assistance.
As the city struggled with dwindling revenues, McNeely led the city in its efforts to reduce spending, including making cutbacks in the fire department as well as the police department, where more than fifty law enforcement officers saw their positions eliminated over the last two years.
During the first two years of his tenure, McNeely was able to function under the safe cover of the political majority then in ascendency at City Hall, that is, the then-city council majority aligned with mayor Patrick Morris. Morris’ rival in San Bernardino was and remains city attorney Jim Penman, whom Morris defeated in the race for Mayor in 2005 and again in 2009.
Morris’s support of McNeely left the city manager at odds with the city attorney. There were manifestations of that enmity that loomed into public view at various times.
In October 2010, Penman, angry with how certain items had been agendized for the city council meetings in a way he thought favored Morris, had an argument with McNeely that came to the public’s attention. That same month, McNeely received a memo from police chief Keith Kilmer, a Morris ally, in which Kilmer alleged Penman had challenged him to a fight. McNeely diffused that crisis.
A year later, in October 2011, McNeely had to referee a battle between San Bernardino Public Works Director Nadeem Majaj and Penman over Penman’s objection to Majaj having cooperated with a police department investigation into charges that Majaj’s predecessor, Randy Kuettle, had accepted gifts from a city contractor, Matich Corporation, and then removed an inspector who questioned the work on one of Matich’s road-paving jobs. The Matich Corporation had been a Penman political backer.
Morris’ hold on the council was tenuous at best. In 2009, Dennis Baxter, one of Morris’s allies on the council, was defeated by Jason Desjardins, who was backed by Penman. When Desjardins was forced to leave the council prematurely in 2011, he was replaced by another Penman ally, Robert Jenkins. Last November, the 4-3 majority Morris continued to enjoy on the council was reversed when Tobin Brinker was replaced by yet another Penman ally, John Valdivia.
While Valdivia has made statements for public consumption that diplomatically indicated his readiness to work with McNeely, he has also said that he is looking forward to forging a new city management team. McNeeley’s contract was set to expire or be extended in June. There were indications as early as December that he was contemplating leaving. In the end, McNeely did not have the energy to function in an atmosphere beset with a continuum of political bickering.
“I wish to express my gratitude for the opportunity to have worked with you over the last three years,” McNeeley wrote in a letter to city staff informing them of his resignation. “The residents of this community are fortunate to have such dedicated employees who sacrifice so much to maintain a high level of service to this community under the most difficult of circumstances. It truly has been great to get to know many of you personally and I want to thank you for your support during my tenure as city manager and wish you and the city the very best.”

Hearing Officer Finds Nepotism, Cronyism & Racism At SBCUSD

Mel Albiso, the San Bernardino City Unified School District’s former assistant superintendent of human resources and its current associate superintendent and chief administrative officer, has engaged in numerous examples of nepotism, cronyism and race-driven favoritism, according to an independent hearing officer who looked into the district’s personnel practices.
The district retained administrative hearing officer Norman Brand, the past president of the California Dispute Resolution Council, to look into former personnel director Abe Flory’s contention that he was wrongfully terminated by the district in 2007. In reviewing more than a ream of documents Flory produced or referenced in support of his case, Brand came to the conclusion that Flory’s firing was unjustifiable and that he should be reinstated with $550,000 in back pay. In making that determination, Brand found merit in Flory’s assertions, posted in a newsletter and on a website, charging the district and Albiso engaged in hiring practices that were fraught with  “nepotism, cronyism and racism.” Brand told the district’s personnel commission “evidence shows at least two of the accusations are true.”
District officials maintained Flory’s sacking was justified because of 29 alleged acts characterized as insubordination, dishonesty or failure to perform his duties. Brand found merit in only two of the accusations against Flory, specifically that Flory had violated a district rule when he used overbearing or offensive language in penning a memo saying former superintendent Arturo Delgado had “lied to all district employees in writing and lied to the newspapers” and again violated district policy when he distributed a written account at a school board meeting that essentially accused four district administrators of “stealing” as well as being “unethical, discourteous, offensive and threatening.”  Brand recommended that Flory, who was pulling down more than $120,000 per year, be suspended for one week without pay and receive a letter of reprimand, but otherwise be reinstated.
Flory maintained that evaluations of personnel should have been carried out by the personnel commission rather than Albiso and other district administrators because of their bias.
The personnel commission, which presently carries out merit evaluations of the school district’s employees with the exception of administrators, teachers and counselors, has accepted Brand’s findings. The school board now has the option of confirming the personnel commission’s acceptance of Brand’s determination or appealing the matter to the superior court.
Under Delgado, who departed the district as superintendant last June to become superintendent of Los Angeles County Schools, Albiso had acceded to the second highest ranking position in the district. There have long been suggestions that Albiso advanced to the associate superintendent’s position because of a secret backroom deal Albiso and Delgado closed three years ago.
On January 27, 2009, the San Bernardino City Unified School District (SBCUSD) school board voted 6-0 to give Albiso, who had been the district’s director of personnel and was promoted to assistant superintendent in 2005, a 2 percent raise, retroactive to January 13, 2009. Undisclosed at that time was the salary enhancement was intended to put him into a higher compensation bracket  consistent with duties it had already been secretly agreed he would assume the following month. Indeed, the following month the school board created the position of associate superintendent – in effect the district’s number two staff position second only to superintendent, and promoted Albiso into that position. Among the position’s duties was supervising the district’s assistant superintendents.
Albiso was provided with a $151,188 annual base salary, such that he was receiving a total annual compensation package exceeding $210,000, including all benefits and salary. Albiso at that time was a member of the Colton school board.  Delgado utilized Albiso  as his budgetary axe-man, assigning him to the task of laying off other administrators. Albiso’s promotion into the second highest district office fell under criticism because of his lack of experience, qualifications and expertise with regard to the role he took on. He oversaw the non-educational, non-teaching departments, known as the district’s classified divisions: employee relations/human resources, facilities/maintenance & operations, and information technology.
Albiso does not have an educational degree or any type of state credential, including an administrative credential. His primary duty as an associate superintendent was to oversee non-credentialed personnel, i.e., non-teaching positions such as custodians, groundskeepers, cafeteria workers, clerical help, nurses, etc. Nevertheless, as associate superintendent, Albiso supervises the assistant principals whose job it is to oversee and manage instructors.
Albiso’s daughter, Nicole Ramirez, was recently working in a senior and lucrative position in the district’s nutrition services department without going through any competition or testing for the position. She is the proprietor of an Ontario-based business, Advanced Computing Concepts, which, according to its own website, is involved in advertising, website development and political campaigns. Ramirez touts herself and her company as being able to help a candidate “project the right image, have a clear and well articulated message, and adopt a campaign strategy with clear and concise goals. We offer a comprehensive approach to campaign consulting, including strategic planning and marketing, issue research and message development, and media consulting. A few of the many services we can provide for your campaign include: direct mail marketing targeted to the highest propensity voters, email marketing, Web development, campaign signs, fliers, and other marketing materials, fundraising event planning, [and] multimedia presentations.”
Ramirez and Advanced Computing Concepts have, her website boasts, been involved in school board, city government and school bond and municipal issues. Among those candidates referenced on the Advanced Computing Concepts website are former San Bernardino City Unified School District board members Dr. Elsa Valdez and Teresa Parra.
Both Valdez and Parra supported Albiso’s promotion to associate superintendent at SBCUSD and were his political supporters when he was with the Colton Joint Unified School District, where he was voted out of his position as a board member in November 2010. Both Valdez and Parra were defeated in their reelection bids in November 2011.
Complaints have cropped up that the hiring of Ramirez was improperly done and timed to provide her with medical benefits to cover the cost of the birth of her child. Ramirez’s position, a full-time one, was on occasion filled by her while she worked away from the district office, either at home or at her Ontario office. There have been suggestions that she was paid by the district while actually engaged in work for Advanced Computing Concepts.
In his examination of the matter, Brand found that Ramirez, then known as Nicole Albiso, was originally hired as a programmer with the district in 1999, even though she did not have a degree in information systems at that time. Brand said there was no record of Albiso/Ramirez’s test results for the programming position in the district’s personnel file. Three performance evaluations she was given during her probationary term with the district indicated she needed to improve her computer skills – including learning Visual Basic, which all other district employees in her department had already mastered. Nevertheless, she became a permanent employee at the end of her hiring probation. Subsequently, she resigned, but in 2001, after she changed her name to Nicole Ramirez, she applied with the district once more and was rehired.
Her immediate supervisor, Thomas McCauley Jr., complained up the district chain of command about Ramirez’s performance. McCauley maintained that his superior, Dilip Patel, told him to rescind his complaint because of who Ramirez’s father was. During a hearing before Brand, Patel contradicted McCauley, saying he merely remarked that as a new employee Ramirez needed time to acclimate herself and learn new skills. When Ramirez tested for the position of web developer in 2003, she was the only candidate who failed to finish the test, even after she was provided with an extra hour. According to McCauley, Ramirez passed because a panel member gave her 8 out of 10 points for two questions she did not answer. Despite her performance on the test, Ramirez was promoted to the position.
In 2005, Ramirez resigned from the web developer position and wangled being rehired two days later as a “substitute” web developer who did not need to work out of the district office and could function from home. She was provided the highest level of pay for the web designer position. Patel acknowledged Ramirez did not have the requisite five years experience working with Visual Basic, as required in the job description.
Brand told the commission that “The case of Nicole Ramirez, Albiso’s daughter, can only be explained by nepotism. The evidence of her special treatment is overwhelming.”
In several instances, according to Flory, the district showed a preference in hiring unqualified workers, either because they were blood related to district administrators, were associates of one sort or another of the administrators, or because they were Hispanic.
A custodian who spoke very little English was hired, despite the consideration that safety regulations dictated that all employees be conversant in English.
Last year, Albiso was buffeted with accusations that he engineered the hiring of Helen Rodriguez at San Bernardino City Unified as special education director in the aftermath of a problematic circumstance she had worked herself into at the Colton Joint Unified School District, where she had been protected in her position as director of pupil personnel services there when Albiso was on the school board. Rodriquez engendered a litany of complaints in Colton with regard to failure to comply with federal regulations pertaining to the preparation of education plans for students with disabilities and instead substituting an unapproved curriculum. Those complaints led to legal wrangling between the Colton Joint Unified School District and the Association of Colton Educators.
SBCUSD had for some time been seeking a special education director and held interviews to fill that slot, but, at Albiso’s prompting, the district held the position open for Rodriguez and she was hired by the board, upon Albiso’s recommendation, on June 21. Emanating from the district were indications that other more highly qualified individuals had applied for the special education post with SBCUSD.
Last year, a major rift developed between the district, its administrators and most of the school board on one side and the personnel commission on the other. The stalemate between the district and its personnel commission, which ranks job applicants and recommends to the board of trustees candidates for secretarial, custodian, food-service and other nonteaching assignments, reached a crisis point, as more than 300 nonteaching positions went unfilled for nine months. That contretemps arose out of a disagreement over the suitability of Bryan Astrachan to serve in the capacity of personnel commission director. The district’s management and administration favored Astrachan, while the commission’s three members were adamant that the district instead appoint Patrick Maher. Delgado, in seeking to come to some accommodation with the commission, hired Astrahan as a deputy director in the human resources department, perhaps to make way for bringing in Maher. That, however, infuriated the commission, which was collectively upset over the district’s unwillingness to hire Maher immediately. The stand-off did not end until October, when the board agreed to hire Mahler.

Measure To Reduce Supervisors To Part Time Status Qualifies For November Ballot

An initiative to change San Bernardino County supervisors to part-time status and significantly curtail their pay and office budgets has qualified for the November ballot, the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters announced March 21.
Advocates of the measure, which was drafted and  initially sponsored by Wrightwood resident and former grand jury member Kieran “Red” Brennan, needed to obtain the valid signatures of ten percent of the county’s electorate – 43,520 – to qualify the initiative for the ballot. Brennan’s effort was boosted when the union for the county’s general employees, the San Bernardino Public Employees Association, and the union for the county’s sheriff deputies, the Safety Employees Benefit Association, took up his cause and utilized union money to hire petition gatherers.  Two weeks ago supporters turned petitions containing 73,672 signatures over to the registrar of voters. By Wednesday, the registrar had examined enough of those petitions and compared the signatures contained thereon against voter-registration documents to ascertain that the threshold to qualify the measure for the ballot had been achieved.
Framed as the “San Bernardino County Elected Officials Pay Reduction Act,” the measure if passed would provide for a charter amendment reducing the pay and benefits of the county’s five elected supervisors from an average of $271,000 to $60,000 annually, and cut their district budgets from a total of $6 million to $250,000 per supervisor.
The effort to qualify the measure for a vote brought together some disparate, even contradictory, elements. Much of the original impetus for reducing the supervisors to part time legislators stemmed from the desire to rein in county spending in general, including salaries and benefits to county employees.
Nevertheless, the unions became involved in large measure because county supervisors have given county chief executive officer Greg Devereaux wide latitude in pushing all of the county’s employee bargaining groups to accept either pay reductions, decreased benefits, greater employee contributions toward health coverage and pension funds or a combination thereof in preparation for upcoming contract negotiations.
The initiative will come before the board of supervisors on Tuesday, March 27. Under state law, the supervisors can directly adopt the measure as drafted, place it on the November 6 ballot or take up to 30 days to conduct a study before taking either of those actions. One issue the board is likely to seek information on is whether the measure’s provisions will go into immediate effect upon passage or whether the pay and benefit reductions will not go into effect until all current terms of the supervisors, including those elected in June or November, end.

Mitsubishi Expanding Lucerne Valley Facility

The Mitsubishi Cement Corporation is proposing to add another quarry at the south end of its existing operations in Lucerne Valley.
According to its application for the expansion on file with both the U.S. Forest Service and the San Bernardino County Land Use Services Department, most of the expansion site is located on federal land within the San Bernardino National Forest and will abut and encroach on the mountainside.
What is referred to as the South Quarry Project will have an approximate life of 125 years and cover 153.6 acres, including a 128-acre quarry, 2.7 acres of landscaping and a 1.8 mile long road covering 22.2 acres.
Today is the deadline for providing to the federal government comment regarding the scoping and analysis of the project. Mitsubishi will complete and release a draft environmental impact statement/environmental impact report by October, with the finalization of that document by April 2013

Unconcerned With Offending LA, Ontario Forming Airport Authority

Ontario city officials seem to be unconcerned about the perception or reality that they are putting the cart in front of the horse in their latest aggressive moves to wrest Ontario Airport back from the city of Los Angeles.
According to a press release disseminated early this week, the city is working toward forming an Ontario Airport Authority which is to exist as an entity involving Ontario, San Bernardino County and perhaps other local municipal governments. Ontario officials envision that this newly created authority will supersede the joint powers authority involving Ontario and the city of Los Angeles that was created in 1967.
After the formation of that original joint powers authority for the airport more than 44 years ago, Los Angeles used its influence with the airlines to induce them to establish flights into and out of Ontario and furthermore through its Department of Airports committed to making airline facility improvements worth at least $20 million in 1967 dollars. Whereas in 1966, passenger traffic out of Ontario Airport stood at  under 200,000 passengers per year, by 1969, flights out of Ontario dramatically increased and continued to do so for the next 38 years, though  a benchmark of 10 million passengers at the airport by 1975 was not  achieved. Under Los Angeles’ management, the gravel parking lot was paved. In 1981, a modern, second east-to-west runway was built, necessitating the removal of the old northeast-to-southwest runway.  A few years later, as Los Angeles officials stepped up pressure on Ontario officials to have them cede ownership of the airport in total to Los Angeles, then-Ontario mayor Robert Ellingwood resisted, instead seeking to have the joint powers authority rescinded so Ontario could again assume control of the aerodrome. But on February 19, 1985, at a council meeting when Ellingwood was too ill to attend, the city council voted 4-0 to transfer title to the airport to the city of Los Angeles. Ellingwood refused to endorse the transfer documents with his signature. Instead, the documents carried the signature of then-mayor pro tem Faye Myers Dastrup.  Los Angeles took over ownership officially on July 1, 1985.
In 1987, the departure runway was extended to the east.  In 1997 and 1998, Los Angeles built two modern 530,000-square foot terminals at the airport at a cost of $270 million. In 2005-2006, the airport’s departure runway was repaved, received storm drains, and runway lighting was improved. The airport’s taxiways were widened. The same year Aeroméxico started seasonal flights to Guadalajara and Mexico City, making Ontario a true international airport.  The airport was also renamed Ontario/LA International Airport, ostensibly to avoid confusion with an airport in Canada.
Use of the airport continued on an upward trend for the first four decades it was under the control of Los Angeles, peaking in 2007, when 7.2 million passengers enplaned there. But from that point on, Ontario Airport has seen its use decline. In 2008, 6.2 million passengers took flights from the airport, a drop of 13.5 percent compared to 2007. In 2009, the airport had 4.95 million passengers pass through it. That trend continued in 2010, with 4.8 million travelers flying from Ontario International. Simultaneously Los Angeles World Airports undertook a flurry of improvements at Los Angeles International intended to make traveling in or out there more convenient to passengers.
In the last year, passenger volumes in Ontario continued to decline, with travel at Los Angeles International Airport picking up. Just under 4.6 million passengers took flights out of Ontario International in 2011.  At Los Angeles International, passenger traffic increased by nearly 6 percent.
In 2009, Ontario officials began a dialogue with Los Angeles officials about combating the downward trend in passenger traffic at Ontario. But Los Angeles officials were not keen on surrendering any share of the market Los Angeles International had captured in the aftermath of extensive improvements to that airport.
Ontario officials gravitated toward the conclusion that reacquiring the airport was paramount and that not leaving its destiny in the care of Los Angeles officials, whose first loyalty consisted in keeping Los Angeles International Airport thriving, was the only realistic approach to the problem.
They began pushing Los Angeles to allow a public agency-to-public agency transfer of the airport at no consideration, reversing the 1985 action.
Los Angeles officials balked at that, asserting that over the past 45 years, Los Angeles World Airports has made significant investments to modernize Ontario Airport, entailing the expenditure of over $560 million toward capital improvements there.  Los Angeles officials maintain that money consisted of a combination of Los Angeles and Ontario airport revenues, Federal Aviation Administration grants and bond proceeds secured by Los Angeles World Airports, which is the entity created by the Los Angeles Department of Airports to run Los Angeles International Airport, Van Nuys Airport, Palmdale Airport and Ontario Airport.
The once cordial relations between Ontario and Los Angeles municipal officials have grown increasingly acrimonious, with those in Ontario suggesting that their counterparts in Los Angeles are purposefully mismanaging Ontario Airport to ensure substantial passenger traffic levels are maintained at Los Angeles International. They are carrying out a public relations campaign aimed at propounding the concept of having Los Angeles and Ontario simply rescind both the 1967 joint powers agreement and the 1985 title transfer. In public pronouncements, Ontario officials have suggested that the title transfer should be made for no consideration, just as the 1985 transfer was made. They maintain that as a public benefit entity, the airport has no value as real estate per se. Privately, however, Ontario officials have offered what is tantamount to $250 million to Los Angeles for the return of the airport, consisting of $50 million cash, an agreement to pick up the remaining $75 million in outstanding bond obligations relating to financing for infrastructure at the airport and to over time divert $125 million in future passenger facility charges at the airport to Los Angeles.
Los Angeles World Airport officials have been privately advising members of the Los Angeles City Council to seek to recover as much of the money put into improvements at Ontario Airport since 1967 as possible and to accept no less than $450 million for the airport. Meanwhile, Los Angeles Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa and a majority of the Los Angeles City Council have indicated they are not inclined to consider a sale of the airport during the current down real estate market and want to wait at least two years before entertaining the notion of transferring the property back to Ontario.
Nevertheless, a two-person minority on the 15-member Los Angeles City Council, Dennis Zine and Bill Rosendahl, in January called for a study of how to return LA/Ontario International Airport to Ontario. Their motion was referred to the council’s Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee, which was scheduled to meet on March 20 in an effort to “determine the fair market value of Ontario Airport, including the land, facilities, financial assets and liabilities, then report on the process by which a sale of this facility could occur between the city of Los Angeles and the city of Ontario.”
Rosendahl, a member of the three-person Commerce and Tourism Committee, was hopeful that he could convince the other two committee members, Tom LeBonge and Joe Buscaino, to recommend that the full council move forward with an appraisal and a report summarizing proposed terms of a sale. Before Tuesday’s meeting, the city of Ontario’s intention to form, in conjunction with San Bernardino County and possibly other municipal entities, a new airport authority was publicized. Against that backdrop, Zine was heard by the committee. He asserted that Los Angeles International Airport is “overburdened” and Ontario Airport “underutilized,” with terminals that on occasion stood “virtually empty.” While Zine made a case that some redistribution of the airport passenger traffic in Southern California would be desirable, he and Rosendahl were not successful in convincing LaBonge that an immediate title transfer was necessary to achieve that. Instead the committee asked for a report on the issues relating to the sale be completed in 90 days.
In Ontario, Mayor Paul Leon said he did not think that Ontario needed to be sensitive to diplomatic protocol in dealing with Los Angeles, which still owns the airport and ultimately will decide at what price the airport will be sold or whether it will be sold at all.
“I’m not in a place where I am concerned about offending anyone in Los Angeles,” Leon said. “Here in the Inland Empire, everyone in this region is offended by what Los Angeles is doing to us. We are suffering economically.  We have lost 9,500 jobs because of what is happening to the airport. The regional economy has lost half of a billion dollars. We have one and a half of million more cars driving on the freeways every year because of what is happening, or not happening, at the airport. If anyone needs to be offended, it is us. Los Angeles and Los Angeles World Airports have been engaging in mismanagement of the airport. How they feel about it has nothing to do with what we have to do with expedience for Ontario and the Inland Empire, which is preparing ourselves to take back the Airport, and we have to do that now.”
Leon said the council was originally set to officially discuss the formation of an airport authority at this week’s council meeting but the item had been withdrawn. He said that the authority’s precise make-up “hasn’t been determined.”
In their effort to reestablish control and ownership of the airport, Ontario officials have sought the backing of other local municipalities in both San Bernardino and Riverside counties as well as the county government in San Bernardino County, where the current chief executive officer, Greg Devereaux, was formerly Ontario city manager.  Based upon previously published reports and statements that have emanated from Ontario City Hall, the new joint powers authority will likely consist of a five-member board that will include two members of the Ontario City Council, one or two members of the county board of supervisors or county executive staff and one or two other members to be drawn from the business sector or a city council within the region.

Hazlett Departs As Public Safety Academy Director After Two Weeks

Peggi Hazlett has resigned as the interim executive director of the San Bernardino’s Public Safety Academy, less than a month after she assumed the job.

Peggi Hazlett

Hazlett, a member of the Public Safety Academy’s board of trustees and a special assistant to San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris, had resigned both of those posts to take up the $88,000-a-year job as the school’s top administrator on March 1. But on March 15, she abruptly tendered her resignation.
She gave no grounds for her action. There had been some degree of controversy over the board’s decision to elevate her to interim executive director, particularly with regard to the lack of advance public notice of the action and the consideration that Hazlett lacked both undergraduate and advanced degrees commonly held by school administrators and that her oversight of the academy’s financial circumstance was redundant.
That issue was smoothed over before Hazlett assumed the post, however, when it was agreed that she would carry the title of executive director rather than chief executive officer, and board president Rich Lawhead leapt to her defense in pointing out that she had strong organizational skills, extensive contacts in the community, a proven track record on the board and in previously running a Christian-based home-schooling academy in San Bernardino for two years.
The Public Safety Academy is a public charter school dedicated to preparing teens and pre-teens for careers in public safety. The California Education Code provides for the formation of charter schools under the aegis of a sponsoring local school district, which in this case is the San Bernardino City Unified 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.
The academy, which now has its campus at the former Norton Air Force Base, was founded as an unaccredited educational seminar in 2000 by Michael Dickinson, a one-time arson investigator.  In 2005, the school was given accreditation. Nevertheless, under Dickinson, the Public Safety Academy fell short of both educational and accounting goals over the several years of its operation, then plunged into chaos last year. Four years ago a financial review revealed the school had not kept accurate payroll and accounting records, and had spent $164,000 that was not budgeted for. There were also questions about $20,000 worth of expenditures for laptops that were either never delivered, misappropriated or stolen.  In January of last year, a report commissioned by the district found the academy’s accounting practices deficient and cataloged arrearages with regard to accounts payable.
Last spring, Michael Dickinson’s wife who served as a principal at one of the school’s campuses, Susan Dickinson, fell under the charter school board’s focus after a report surfaced that she had crossed the line in prepping her students for questions contained in the state’s Standardized Testing and Reporting exam by showing them some of the questions contained in the test. When the charter school’s principal, Kathy Toy, recommended that the board of trustees terminate Susan Dickinson, Michael Dickinson dismissed the board of trustees before they could do so.
On June 20, 2011 the Public Safety Academy board, led by Hazlett, filed suit against Public Safety Academy Inc., an adjunct to the academy  set up and controlled by Michael Dickinson, who received $121,000 per year in salary for his services. That suit sought to restore the authority of the board that Michael Dickinson had terminated. In July, the court ruled that the board had legal authority to run the charter academy, and the contracts of Michael Dickinson, as the chief executive officer, and Dickinson’s hand-picked chief financial officer, Mike Davis, who was paid $120,000 per year, were terminated.
In recent months, the Public Safety Academy has scrambled to maintain its existence and at its February 8 meeting, the board settled upon Hazlett as the dynamic leader needed to lead the school.
At present, the academy is in the process of seeking to have its charter renewed by the San Bernardino City Unified School District, and Hazlett had overseen the preparation of that charter reapplication. Her departure at this point could complicate the process.
The board was scheduled to meet late this week to discuss finding a replacement for her.

Rawland Leaving As Head Of County Behavioral Health

Allan Rawland, San Bernardino County’s director of behavioral health for the last seven years, will retire on April 7.
The board of supervisors last week appointed CaSonya Thomas, the department’s assistant director, to succeed Rawland.
Rawland is concluding a 46-year career in human services, having worked in six different counties in roles ranging from juvenile hall counselor, social worker, community organizer and activist, executive administrator in human and behavioral health departments, and as a faculty member with the California State University System.
Rawland mentored Thomas, hoping the board of supervisors would select her as his successor. “Ms. Thomas has my utmost support and I am confident that the Department of Behavioral Health is in excellent hands,”  Rawland said.
Chairwoman of the board of supervisors Josie Gonzales told Rawland at the March 13 board of supervisors meeting, “You have brought about such a beautiful change in the department. We have nothing but productivity, wholesomeness, and progression taking place and it is you we have to thank for that.”
The county of San Bernardino Department of Behavioral Health employs 860 people and has an annual budget of $292 million.
Thomas began her career with San Bernardino County in 1991 as an eligibility worker with the Department of Public Social Services, now known as the Transitional Assistance Department. She gained extensive managerial experience through several successive positions in human services during the past 20 years. Most notable has been her six-year career with the Department of Behavioral Health, where she has held multiple leadership positions, including chief compliance officer, deputy director, and assistant director.
“Being appointed the director of behavioral health is a great responsibility and the board of supervisors can rest assured that I will continue the tenets of inclusiveness and collaboration that have contributed so much to the department’s success,” Thomas said.
Ms. Thomas has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a post-graduate degree in public administration, both from Cal State San Bernardino. She is also certified in healthcare compliance by the National Health Care Compliance Board and is a graduate of the San Bernardino County Management Leadership Academy and continues to participate in the program as a mentor.