Prosecutors Hoping To Reestablish Bribery Element Of Colonies Case

(December 28)   The pre-trial jousting between prosecutors and defense attorneys in the celebrated Colonies Settlement Corruption Case has been extended for at least one more round with prosecutors’ appeal to the California Supreme Court of an appellate court’s October ruling that on balance favored the defendants.
At issue is whether bribery counts against the land developer at the center of the case will be reinstated. Those bribery charges are considered the linchpin of the case against all four remaining defendants.
The Colonies Settlement Political Corruption Case grew out of the November 26, 2006 3-2 vote of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors as it was then composed to approve a $102 million settlement of the civil action brought against the county and its flood control division by the Colonies Partners over drainage issues at the Colonies at San Antonio residential and Colonies Crossroads commercial subdivisions in northeast Upland.
Prosecutors allege that earlier in 2006 Jeff Burum, who with Dan Richards was one of the two managing principals of the Colonies Partners, conspired with former sheriff’s deputies’ union president Jim Erwin to blackmail two of the then-members of the board of supervisors, Bill Postmus and Paul Biane, by threatening to reveal in mailers to be sent to voters the former’s homosexuality and drug use and the latter’s insolvency. After the November 2006 vote in which Postmus and Biane joined with their board colleague Gary Ovitt to approve the settlement, prosecutors maintain Burum during the first six months of 2007 delivered four separate $100,000 bribes to Postmus, Biane, Erwin and Ovitt’s chief-of-staff, Mark Kirk, in the form of political donations to political action committees the four had founded or controlled.
Postmus and Erwin were indicted on bribery and extortion counts relating to this alleged scheme in February 2010. After Postmus in March 2011 entered guilty pleas on 14 felony counts contained in that first indictment, he appeared as the star witness before a newly impaneled grand jury that heard a total of 45 witnesses in April 2011. The following month that grand jury handed down a superseding 29-count indictment naming Burum, Erwin, Biane and Kirk, who were charged variously with conspiracy to commit a crime, bribery, conflict of interest, tax fraud, tax evasion, perjury, forgery, and aiding and abetting.
In August 2011, after demurrers were filed on behalf of Burum, Erwin, Kirk and Biane by their lawyers, Judge Brian McCarville granted some but not all of those defense requests to throw out charges based on their  insufficiency or lack of clarity, dismissing five of the counts lodged against Burum, two of the counts Biane faced, two of the counts Erwin was charged with and one count pending against Kirk.
The prosecution then appealed McCarville’s ruling to the appellate court to have the charges reinstated. Defense attorneys likewise filed petitions with the appellate court, arguing that all charges that had been tossed should have been dismissed and asserting that McCarville should have sustained more of the demurrers than he actually did.
After nearly a year of consideration, the 4th District Court of Appeal on October 31, 2012 in a 41-page decision written by Justice Art W. McKinster and joined by associate justices Betty Ann Richli and Douglas P. Miller, upheld McCarville’s dismissal of part of a conspiracy charge plus four other counts against Burum, and tossed out a conflict of interest charge against Burum. At the same time, the appellate justices restored some elements of the conspiracy charge along with an aiding and abetting charge against Burum.
In the case of Erwin, the appellate judges dismissed three charges against Erwin that included engaging in a conflict of interest and that he aided and abetted Biane in his reception of a bribe. The court restored one charge against Erwin, that of misappropriating public funds. It upheld McCarville’s denial of a bid to dismiss the conspiracy and two other charges.
For Kirk, the judges denied his request to throw out two charges pertaining to conspiring with Burum and misappropriation of public funds. They also restored a charge that he had improperly lobbied his boss, Ovitt.
On December 10, the last day that it could do so, the state attorney general’s office, which is acting in concert with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office in prosecuting the matter, appealed the Fourth District Court of Appeals ruling, seeking to have four bribery charges and a public officer crime count against Burum that were contained in the original indictment but which have since been nixed by McCarville and the appellate court reinstated.
In its petition to the California Supreme Court, the state Attorney General’s Office asserts California’s bribery statutes are a half century out of date and not in compliance with federal law, and are further not in keeping with previous decisions rendered by the state Supreme Court. Prosecutors took issue with McCarville’s ruling, which was affirmed by the Fourth District Court of Appeals, that someone who has given a bribe cannot be simultaneously guilty of having aided and abetted the individual who received the alleged bribe.  McCarville and the Fourth Appellate Court’s rulings will hamstring prosecutors in the pursuit of political corruption cases in the future, the state attorney general’s office maintains.
“Because the Court of Appeal’s holding specifically limits the manner in which prosecutors can charge bribery crimes, it will have a chilling effect on public corruption prosecutions and cause the issue to evade review,” deputy attorney general Melissa Mandel propounded in the appeal petition. She asserted that Burum was the “mastermind” of the entire criminal enterprise, while decrying the dislogic that he was being let off the hook while Erwin, whom she characterized as Burum’s “underling” was being held to answer “for the identical conduct.”
Mandel said it was imperative that the appellate court’s decision be reconsidered since the case is likely to “be used as a benchmark to inform the conduct of both public officials and those seeking to influence them as to what acts they can commit without subjecting themselves to prosecution” and “the state’s bribery law has not been meaningfully considered in more than 50 years.”
Stephen Larson, a former federal judge who is Burum’s defense counsel, wrote in court papers that prosecutors are flailing. The Fourth Appellate Court’s decision to dismiss the bribery charge was based on sound reasoning and Mandel’s citation was to a case that did not pertain to bribery and was irrelevant to the appellate court’s decision, Larson stated.
“The Court of Appeal’s decision is entirely consistent with every published case addressing these already well-settled issues,” Larson wrote in his response to Mandel’s appeal. “The only cases that have addressed this question have squarely held that a bribe-giver cannot be charged with aiding and abetting the alleged receiver of bribes.” Larson intimated in his response that the prosecution was overzealously prosecuting the case out of an untoward political motivation and vindictiveness toward his client, while misrepresenting the circumstances that led up to the filing of the lawsuit and the efforts of several individuals, including some of the defendants, to settle the matter. “The People’s unsupported recitation of facts at this stage of the case mischaracterizes the record and demonstrates their lack of prosecutorial objectivity. What the People fail to mention is that the $102 million settlement that Mr. Burum supposedly obtained through bribes actually involved the taking of over 60 acres of prime real estate by the county of San Bernardino from Mr. Burum’s company, Colonies Partners, L.P., for the construction of a regional flood-control facility—and thus Colonies was constitutionally-entitled to just compensation,” according to Larson.
Larson also wrote that since the case is an unpublished one it will not have a bearing on future rulings and is not eligible for Supreme Court review. “The opinion will have absolutely no precedential impact on future cases, nor will it affect the charging discretion of other prosecutors in other cases,” Larson asserted.

29 Palms To Consider Augmenting Fire Service

(December 28)   TWENTYNINE PALMS—It is anticipated that early in 2013, the city of Twentynine Palms will make a historic departure from its tradition of entrusting to the Twentynine Palms Water District financial responsibility for and autonomy over the fire department.
For fifty-four years, the Twentynine Palms Water District has overseen the Twentynine Palms Fire Department. In 1958, when the California Department of Forestry ceased providing local fire service, the Twentynine Palms Water District extended its responsibilities to include fire protection. When the city of Twentynine Palms incorporated in 1987, it did not take on authority over the fire department and it has never contributed to, participated in or subsidized the fire department’s operational budget.
Under the arrangement that has been in place since 1958, fire department finances have been held independent of the water district’s water division operational budget, with water rates totally devoted to the provision of water to customers. Fire department operations are defrayed entirely by a special tax on properties throughout the service area of the district. That special tax currently generates slightly more than $1.24 million per year.
In 2007, the city and the district began earnest discussion of annexing the fire department to the city, but because of complications with regard to the authority for the special tax and the formula for the distribution of tax revenues, as well as the discrepancy between the city limits and the district’s service area, the city elected to forego the takeover.
Developments over the last seven months, however, have created a situation in which city participation in the fire department’s operations, or at least partially defraying the cost of those operations, is now likely.
In April, Twentynine Palms voters rejected the Measure H tax initiative by a substantial margin. Measure H would have levied an $80 to $120 per parcel assessment on customers of the water district to provide enhanced fire protection and emergency medical aid to the community. Needing the endorsement of two-thirds of the voters to pass, Measure H garnered 850 votes of endorsement, or 48.27 percent, and 911 in opposition, or 51.73 percent, during the mail-in balloting concluded on April 17.
The Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), which oversees jurisdictional issues throughout the county, did a five-year service review of Twentynine Palms earlier this year, delivering that report on May 7. According to that report, the demands of operating the fire district have for some time been outrunning the water district’s funding ability such that “the water district’s fire operations are unsustainable as presently financed.”
LAFCO called for the water district to overcome the financial challenges facing the fire department or cede control  to another entity by July 1, 2013. On June 27, with director Nicholas “Bo” Bourikas not present but voting in absentia in writing, the water board moved to file an application with the San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission to sever fire service from the district. On July 12, at a joint meeting of the Twentynine Palms Water District, including its legal counsel and staff, Twentynine Palms Fire Chief Jim Thompson, the Twentynine Palms City Council and its legal counsel, county fire chief Mark Hartwig and LAFCO chief executive Kathleen Rollings-McDonald, a decision was made to have the county’s fire department subsume the fire department.
Under the water district’s guidance, the fire department has grown to boast two fire stations, Station 421 on Adobe Road, which provides first response to the 59-square mile incorporated portion of Twentynine Palms and some unincorporated pockets close to town, and Station 422 on Lear Avenue, which is the first logical responder to fire and medical emergencies in the 29-square mile unincorporated, outlying communities of Twentynine Palms, including the Desert Heights area. The department employs seven permanent/professional firefighters, including the fire chief, two fire captains, and four engineers. The department also employs an administrative assistant. The department counts on 30 volunteers, who work one shift per week.
Under the county’s management, however, the fire department would be drastically reduced. Officials have gone back and forth over whether the operation of both existing fire stations will be maintained. There have been differing proposals to close out Fire Station 421  and headquarter the entire department at Station 422; to scale back Station 421’s operations while relying on paid call firefighters; and to keep both stations up and running with what can best be described as skeleton crews.
Crunching numbers and looking at fiscal realities, including the necessity of the department’s employees becoming members of the firefighters union representing San Bernardino County firefighters, who as such will be entitled under contract to hefty salaries and benefits, it appeared that four of the seven firefighters currently with the district would have to be laid off, given the $1.24 million in annual revenue into the district. There was one proposal floated that called for having a fire division consisting of four firefighters, entailing one two-man crew at each fire station.
Immediately upon becoming a creature of county government, the department would have to begin paying into the state Public Employees Retirement System. With three employees, the department could sustain itself with $1.16 million per year. But upon hiring a fourth firefighter, the cost of running the department would jump to $1.3 million, and that assumes that the fourth firefighter would earn no overtime.
Under California Public Employees Retirement System rules and the county’s contract with the firefighters union, firefighters are eligible to retire at the age of 55 and then receive three percent of their highest annual earnings times the number of years they worked with the department. This would include all the years the firefighters were employed by the water district. The county has indicated it would not be willing to cover that portion of the contribution into the California Public Employees Retirement System pertaining to the previous years worked by the three or four firefighters to be hired by the county upon takeover of the district. That contribution or “liability” of the water district would be at least $700,000 for three firefighters and $940,000 for four firefighters.
At one point, Hartwig proposed having the newly-constituted Twentynine Palms Fire Department consist of one chief and one firefighter/paramedic at Station 421 in downtown Twentynine Palms and two firefighters/paramedics at Station 422 on Lear Avenue, with a total operating budget of  $1 million to $1.3 million annually.
Subsequently, after Hartwig spoke in depth with current fire chief Thompson and made a consideration of various staffing scenarios, it was determined that the most likely form the department would take would be three firefighters composing one engine company which would operate out of one station, most likely the one on Lear Avenue.
More recently, Hartwig indicated a two-station department could be provided for $1.2 million per year, with the Adobe Road facility, Station 421, being  staffed by a single professional fire captain, a “limited term” firefighter/paramedic and one “limited term” firefighter, and the Lear Avenue Station, No. 422, being manned by paid-call firefighters. The department would continue to rely upon its corps of volunteers/paid call firefighters, who are provided with training and equipment, including a pager that is used to summon them when an emergency so dictates. They are paid up to $10 an hour for their service but receive no benefits and no guaranteed minimum.
By utilizing volunteers/paid call personnel and the three professional firefighters, Hartwig said he could make do with $1.24 million per year and still “balance the books.”
While no previous city council has consented to augmenting the fire department, city officials are now carefully considering the consequences of having the water district lose  control over the fire department to the county. At present, the water district receives  $1,241,000 in revenue from the special fire tax. Running the fire department as it is currently constituted incurs annual expenditures of $1,480,202. Essentially, because the water district is $239,000 short in the revenue it needs to run a seven-man department, it is on the brink of reducing itself to a three-man department.
For approximately $80,000 to $85,000 per year, the city could subsidize the fire department such that it could remain under the control of the water district as a five-man fire department. For $165,000 to $175,000 per year, the city could preserve the fire department as a six-man operation yet under the control of the water district. For $239,000 per year, the city could preserve the fire department in its current configuration.
On November 6, Cora Heiser replaced John Cole on the city council. She has indicated her support for shoring up the fire department. Recent public statements by councilman Jim Harris indicated he would provide a second solid vote for maintaining local control over the fire department and keeping  its current staffing level.
There has been discussion of a joint public meeting between the water district’s board of directors and the city council in January, but at press time this week, no date had been set. Meanwhile, the water district, which voted to begin the jurisdiction transfer process last summer, has yet to put up the $15,400 processing fee that has to be provided to LAFCO to initiate those proceedings. LAFCO chief executive officer Kathleen Rollings-McDonald earlier indicated that the application for the transfer needed to be initiated by last October 1 to ensure a timely transition by next July 1. It now appears that the district will miss that transfer date. Rollings-McDonald told the Sentinel earlier this month it was her understanding that the water district was suspending the transfer application.
Indications are the transfer effort will be withdrawn entirely, as city officials cast about for some solution to the fire department’s funding dilemma.

Upland Renegotiates Medical Transport Helicopter Franchise Contract

(December 28)   The city of Upland, which more than three years ago broke Mercy Air Ambulance’s monopoly on medical emergency helicopter transport in San Bernardino County by contracting with Reach Air to fly out of Cable Airport and service the southwestern portion of San Bernardino County, has renegotiated the service contract with that company.
According to city manager Stephen Dunn, the renegotiation will generate as much as $200,000 in additional revenue for the cash-strapped city.
To maintain the franchise, under the new terms of the contract, Reach will pay $1,437,600 each year, i.e., $119,800 per month. Reach does its own billing to customers and was previously paying the city $85,834 per month to provide three nurses and three medics to staff the helicopter. Reach covers the cost of providing the helicopter, maintaining it and paying the salaries of its pilots and mechanic.
Last year, after all of its $1,005,859 in costs were set against the $1,030,008  franchise fee, the city netted $24,149 in revenue.
In negotiating with Reach, Dunn and acting fire chief Dave Carrier were  able to boost the city’s projected take over the next several years.
The air ambulance is chartered through the city of Upland and is called upon to provide service throughout the local area, including Chino Hills, Chino, Montclair, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, San Antonio Heights, Mt. Baldy, Claremont, Pomona, Guasti and Los Serranos. It has averaged over the last 42 months about two service calls into Upland every month.

In Effort To Avoid State Takeover, VVUHSD To Lay Off 80 Employees

(December 28)   Three months before they were required to do so, the Victor Valley Unified High School District’s board of directors voted to hand out preliminary layoff notices to 80 district employees.
Under state law, teachers and other school district employees must be provided with preliminary notice of their potential layoffs by March 15 and actual notification of their layoffs by May 15 prior to the initiation of the school instructional year in August or September.
The proposed cuts, which have yet to be finalized, include reducing district staff by 37 teachers and eight counselors. The reductions are being made as the district struggles with severe budgetary constraints exacerbated by debt payments.
Bond  debt service payments are outrunning income into the district, according to Michelle McClowry, a fiscal advisor to the district on loan from the county superintendent of schools office. McClowry said that by late March the district will be out of money and will be unable to fully meet its payroll.
Given its encumbrances, the district cannot borrow money at any reasonable rate. With its current rate of spending, the district’s deficit will reach $19 million by June and $51 million by June 2014.
“The magnitude of overspending is so huge that you must deal with it now,” McClowry told the board.  She said the preliminary layoff notices should be sent out prior to efforts to induce the district’s teacher and employee unions to return to the bargaining table where substantial contract concessions are to be requested.
Finances in the district have deteriorated to the point that if the district has not put together a game plan for reducing its deficit spending by February 15, the process of turning the district over to a state receivership will be initiated. District officials said a state takeover would likely result in a curriculum devoted solely to core educational courses with the elimination of most or all electives. Included in the layoff notices were two for teachers in the district’s popular cadet program.
Board member Evelyn Glasper said the district had no realistic alternative to sending out the layoff notices, which were in the mail the week before Christmas.
Board members Barbara Dew and Timothy Hauk said they had not had an opportunity to review the proposed cuts and they voted against making the layoff notices at this point. The motion to send them out passed 3-2.
Under the proposed plan, 35 non-instructional workers including information technology specialists, clerical staff and custodians, will be let go as of April 26. The remainder of the layoffs will come in June.

County Arranges For EIR On Lucerne Quarry Expansion

(December 28)   The county this month approved making pass-through funding available for the preparation of an environmental impact report and monitoring program for the expansion of a limestone quarry in Lucerne Valley.
Currently three operators, Omya, which was formerly known as Pluess Stauffer; Specialty Minerals, formerly Pfizer; and Mitsubishi Cement are mining the western portion of the Lucerne Valley Limestone Province. Right Star Minerals recently received approval to proceed with underground mining of the principal high-grade, white calcite limestone ore body similar to that being mined by Omya, Specialty Minerals, and Mitsubishi Cement in the western portion of the province.
The Lucerne Valley Limestone Province consists of substantial reserves of cement-grade and high-brightness, high-grade calcite limestone. The province extends for about 24 miles along the north slope of the San Bernardino Mountains overlooking the Mojave Desert. About five percent of the San Bernardino Mountains are underlain by Paleozoic carbonate rocks. This carbonate stratigraphic section averages about 1,500 meters thick with white high-grade calcite limestone units ranging from 15 to 30 meters thick.
The county board of supervisors, on the recommendation of county land use services director Christine Kelly, this month approved a contract with Pacific Municipal Consultants (PMC) effective December 19, 2012, in an amount not to exceed $281,892 to complete the preparation of an environmental impact report and mitigation monitoring and reporting program for the White Knob/White Ridge Project.
The project applicant, Omya, deposited  $281,892 into the project trust account in December 2008 to cover the costs of the environmental impact report and the monitoring program.
In 2008 OMYA California, Incorporated submitted a revision to a mining reclamation plan for the White Knob/White Ridge Limestone Quarry Project to increase the disturbance limits of the project by 147 acres for a total of 297.6 acres for mining, mine waste management, and sedimentation control. Since 2008, OMYA has been negotiating with the Bureau of Land Management and the California Department of Fish and Game to resolve natural resource damages and trespass onto federal land resulting from OMYA’s activities at the White Knob/White Ridge Limestone Quarry site.
In April 2011, settlement agreements were entered into by and between the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Fish and Game and OMYA to resolve and otherwise settle disputes regarding the resource damages and trespass claims. Those items have been resolved and the project is ready to continue.
Along the north-facing slope of the San Bernardino Mountains much of the original high-grade ore has been lost through erosion into a series of northward dipping alluvial fans. Most of the eastern portion of the province for several kilometers has not eroded away along a highland area known as “Lone Valley” or the Smart Ranch Limestone Deposit.
Bids to complete the environmental impact report and monitoring plan were solicited from eight firms known to meet the necessary qualifications to perform the analysis required by the environmental impact report. In addition, the bid request was posted on the county’s web site and advertised in a local newspaper.
On December 16, 2008, the board of supervisors approved a contract with PMC in the amount of $370,000 to prepare the environmental impact report and monitoring project for the project, of which, $88,108 of initial work was completed under the original contract.

County Undertakes Several Traffic Safety Improvement Efforts

(December 28)   Based upon the recommendations of Gerry Newcombe, the county’s director of public works, the county board of supervisors this month took several actions aimed at improving public safety on various roads throughout the county.
The board approved an agreement with the city of Barstow for the cost sharing of maintenance and service costs associated with traffic signals and lighting at the intersection of Main Street and Lenwood Road through June 30, 2031.
The board approved an agreement with the city of Adelanto to equally share the maintenance and service costs for the proposed traffic signals and lighting at the intersection of Mojave Drive at Bellflower Street in the Adelanto area through June 30, 2022. The board adopted a resolution to establish a “no stopping, standing or parking” zone on both sides of Broadview Avenue, for a distance of 150 feet to the south from Rosedale Curve, in the San Antonio Heights area, and direct the county road commissioner to perform such acts as are necessary to effectuate the change. A traffic engineering investigation on Broadview Avenue in the San Antonio Heights area revealed that vehicles parked on Broadview Avenue, at the intersection with Rosedale Curve, cause northbound vehicles traveling on Broadview Avenue to maneuver over the center of the roadway in order to pass the parked vehicles and cause southbound vehicles entering Broadview Avenue from Rosedale Curve to also cross the center line. As part of the investigation, the department also determined that a stop sign should be installed for Broadview Avenue at Rosedale Curve.
The board also rescinded Resolution No. 2012-164, which was adopted by the board of supervisors on August 21, 2012, and directs the county road commissioner to remove the speed and weight restriction signs for Harper Lake Road in the Hinkley area that were erected as a result of Resolution No. 2012-164.
The board further adopted a resolution to allow angled parking along Pine Street and Apple Avenue adjacent to the Wrightwood Skate Park, in the Wrightwood area.

Hesperia Using $2 Million Federal Grant To Rehire Nine Firefighters

(December 28)  HESPERIA—The city of Hesperia will rejuvenate its county-run fire department with the assistance of a just-received $2 million federal grant.
According to city officials, the money will  be immediately put to use to rehire nine firefighting personnel who were laid off 18 months ago. In July 2011, Hesperia, which contracts with the San Bernardino County Fire Department for fire protection service, cut $1.4 million from the fire district’s budget. City officials sought to make up that difference by asking the city’s voters to pass Measure F in November 2011. Measure F would have imposed an $85 per parcel tax to augment fire services within the 73-square mile city. Voters turned thumbs down on the tax proposal and the city then shed nine firefighting positions as of January 2012, and shut down one of its fire stations.
According to city officials, those layoffs netted $752,000 in economies to the district’s $9.2 million budget in 2012-13.
The city applied for a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The processing of the grant request determined that Hesperia would use the money to restore local fire department staffing and enhance the city’s ability to respond to emergencies.
The grant will be used to cover 100 percent of the salaries and benefits for nine fire safety positions for two years, according to the city.
Saying that “Firefighters provide a tremendous benefit to our community,” Hesperia Mayor Bill Holland said, “We are excited to be awarded this grant.”

With Accreditation Pending, VVC Board Holds Off On Renewing President’s Contract

(December 28)   VICTORVILLE–The Victor Valley College Board of Trustees has declined to renew Christopher O’Hearn’s contract as college president.
O’Hearn’s contract will expire on June 30. The proposal before the board earlier this month called for a two-year extension. The full board voted 4-1 not to make that extension at the present time, with Dennis Henderson dissenting. The board has the option of taking up the issue of O’Hearn’s continued tenure again before his contract expires.
Board member Joe Brady said the board’s vote should not be interpreted as an indication of a lack of confidence in O’Hearn or disapproval of his leadership thus far. He said the board majority simply did not want to be stampeded into action at this time.
“We had to give notice by the end of December on whether we were going to extend his contact,” Brady said. “We voted against doing that at this time. That is not to say we could not sit down and have a different outcome in February, March or April. This had nothing to do with any dissatisfaction with his performance. He has a contract that expires in June and we were being asked to extend it another two years. That would have been a two-and-a-half-year commitment to keep him and at this point we are not ready to do just that.”
A major challenge to the college and O’Hearn has been the college’s placement on accreditation probation as of June 2011.
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges is to give a report on its review of the college in February, providing an indication of whether the college will be returned to full accreditation. That report is very likely to have a bearing on whether the college will choose to keep O’Hearn as president.
Brady said he believed O’Hearn had done a “credible job” in seeking to return the college to full academic status, but he said “We’re all sensitive to the college’s image and the need to carry out the academic mission, which is to provide students with credits toward a four-year degree at another institution or to train our residents with skills needed in the workforce. I think the voters sent a message when they did not return Joe Range to the board that they want a change in the college and its focus. Giving the president a two-year extension at this point, if you look at everything that is going on is not consistent with that new vision.”

Redlands’ $210K Investment In LED Bulbs To Yield Offsetting Energy Cost Savings

(December 28)   The city of Redlands public works division has met a city council- imposed goal of having a significant number of downtown street lights transition from the high pressure sodium light bulbs the city has traditionally used to the brighter, more energy efficient light emitting diode (LED) bulbs.
According to Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar the lights shone brightly during the Redlands Christmas parade.
Instead of making a complete change of the light fixtures on Orange Street from Pearl to Citrus avenues as originally intended, city workers found a vendor, Flatiron Electric Group, capable of adapting the lights to LED bulbs. In this way the scale of phase one of the light improvement project was increased to include a portion of Redlands Boulevard and parts of Sixth and Eureka streets. Phase one of the project, which began in March, has yet to be entirely completed.
Phase two of the conversions are currently intended to extend to portions of Colton Avenue, further westward on Redlands Boulevard, Brookside Avenue, Cajon and Orange streets.
LED lighting uses roughly 50 percent less energy than conventional illumination. LED bulbs should last 50,000 illuminated hours or longer, which is 30,000 hours longer than the effective life of high pressure sodium bulbs.
The first  phase of the project will cost $210,000 and will be paid for with $100,000 from the city’s public works budget, a $50,000 credit from Southern California Edison for  photovoltaic cells installed at the wastewater treatment plant, $35,000 in savings to the city represented by diminishing its manpower need directly related to lower lighting system maintenance, current and anticipated electricity usage reductions in the amount of $19,000 for the fiscal year ending next June 30 and $6,000 in rebates for using LED lights. Within six to seven years the city will see energy savings that will defray in its entirety the outlays for the LED purchases, according to city engineer Fred Mousavipour.

Board Names John McMahon San Bernardino County’s 35th Sheriff

(December 21)   The board of supervisors on Tuesday appointed assistant sheriff John McMahon to succeed sheriff Rod Hoops upon Hoops’  upcoming retirement on December 31, midway through his current term.
Reports have been circulating since September 2011 that Hoops was looking to leave office and install McMahon as his successor. Hoops was himself appointed sheriff when his predecessor, Gary Penrod, chose to resign as sheriff midterm in January 2009. Hoops, running as an incumbent, was elected sheriff in 2010.
According to several department and county sources, Hoops was dissuaded from leaving last year because of concern that such an exodus would have come too soon after the 2010 election. Hoops made a public announcement on November 7, the day after this year’s election, of his intention to leave at the end of the year to take a position as a fellow with the Washington D.C.-based National Police Foundation. In so doing, he recommended that the board of supervisors appoint McMahon to replace him.
As one of the department’s two assistant sheriffs, McMahon is the third ranking member of the department, behind Hoops and undersheriff Robert Fonzi. Prior to taking his current position, McMahon held the rank of deputy chief, in which assignment he oversaw the department’s desert division along with its detention facilities. Previously, he was captain of the sheriff’s station in Apple Valley, serving as police chief in that desert town where he had grown up. His previous billets included serving as a lieutenant, sergeant, detective and deputy. He joined the department at the age of 21 in 1985. He obtained an A.S. degree in police science from Victor Valley College and holds a B.A. in criminal justice management from Union University. A graduate of Apple Valley High School, he currently resides in Phelan.
In making the appointment, chairwoman of the board of supervisors Josie Gonzales said McMahon had been characterized to her as having a “great reputation” and “diverse experience” along with being “highly ethical” and “hard working.” She said he was further described as being “calm, engaged, transparent, fair, and a good communicator.”
Several of the county’s senior law enforcement officials, including several police chiefs, were at the meeting, ostensibly in support of McMahon. For the last several months, McMahon has essentially been serving in the capacity of sheriff, as Hoops has become less active and visible in his elected role in leading the department and Fonzi has been undergoing and recovering from two shoulder surgeries.
There has been some perception that Fonzi was stepped over in the elevation of McMahon. Fonzi’s medical leave earlier this year came at a crucial time when the de facto passing of the baton from Hoops to McMahon was occurring. McMahon garnered the inside track in the race to succeed Hoops in some measure based upon being favored by Hoops himself but also on the positive relationship McMahon developed with county administrative officer Greg Devereaux. McMahon was present during Devereaux’s discussions with the deputies’ union representatives relating to contract concessions on the officers’ salary and benefit packages, which Devereaux considers key to balancing the county’s budget over the next several years.
McMahon’s selection was in some degree marred by repeated charges from several quarters that the board of supervisors and Devereaux were party to a contrived arrangement by Hoops to name his successor. Shortly after Hoops’ retirement announcement and his call for McMahon to take his place, Gonzales publicly stated she wanted to make the transition a quick and seamless one. This prompted Keith Bushey, who boasted an impressive list of law enforcement credentials including having been San Bernardino County’s former marshal, a former deputy chief in the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, a commander with the Los Angeles Police Department, an instructor in law enforcement techniques with the FBI and a colonel in the Marine Corps, to write a letter to Gonzales in which he stated that the county was engaged in “an insular, non-competitive and seemingly secretive selection process. The perception within the sheriff’s department, which is just about universal, is that sheriff Hoops has already brokered an agreement with the board to ensure the appointment of John McMahon as his replacement.”
This triggered a virulent denial on Gonzales’ part and she vowed an open, aboveboard and transparent process in choosing Hoops’ replacement. On December 4, the board gave indication it would consider other interested candidates, indicating along the way that those under consideration would be vetted, interviewed and their qualifications carefully weighed by a subcommittee of the board, to consist of Gonzales and supervisor Gary Ovitt, before a recommendation to the full board would be made.
Ovitt, however, was vacationing throughout most of the first half of December and was unable to meet with any of the candidates other than McMahon.
Both Bushey and Paul Schrader, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy and Rancho Cucamonga resident who had run for sheriff in 2010 and placed second behind Hoops, had indicated interest in being considered for the sheriff’s position. Bushey and Schrader on December 18 said that they had not been granted interviews by the Gonzales/Ovitt subcommittee as had been intimated by Gonzales on December 4.
County spokesman David Wert told the Sentinel, “I know there was some discussion about conducting interviews. County counsel rendered an opinion that conducting interviews would be an intervention of the Brown Act.”
Wert’s reference was to the Ralph M. Brown Act, California’s open meeting law, which requires that governing board members meet in public.
“The county wasn’t obligated to conduct interviews,” Wert added. “The board invited Mr. Bushey and Mr. Schrader to send in a resume. Mr. Bushey sent in a resume. Mr. Schrader declined to do so.”
The failure to conduct the interviews resurrected charges of a backroom deal. It was pointed out that county counsel Jean Rene-Basle had not indicated that interviews could not be conducted but rather that it was inadvisable to interview candidates for an elected office in a closed session. The interviews could have been structured as an open forum, those in attendance at Tuesday’s hearing pointed out. Gonzales said she had deferred to Basle. County officials said it was Gonzales who made the final decision not to hear directly from alternate candidates.
Supervisor Janice Rutherford, who nonetheless voted to name McMahon sheriff, expressed surprise that the interviews had not taken place and said she had not been informed that the closed door interviews of the candidates would have constituted a Brown Act violation until December 16.
“You should have at least talked to us,” Schrader said to the board on December 18. “You based a decision on people from the inside.” He said that he was not informed until December 17 that the subcommittee would consider his resume, in explaining why he had not submitted one.
Schrader’s wife pointedly accused Gonzales of lying.
Flustered, Gonzales defended her position, going so far as to criticize Hoops for abruptly resigning and then saddling the board with the perception of engaging in favoritism by his public endorsement of McMahon.
She said that she and Ovitt had met with the sheriff’s executive staff, the district attorney, public defender, chief probation officer and leaders of the union representing sheriff’s deputies.
“We have taken into account everything that was submitted to us,” she said, seeking to assure the public Hoops’ endorsement of McMahon had not tilted the outcome of her and Ovitt’s decision. “Mr. McMahon deserves this, and not because the sheriff said so. Mr. McMahon needed to stand on his own, and he has done that.”
Gonzales said McMahon’s management of the county jail system, his familiarity with the state’s prison realignment program and his interfacing with both the district attorney’s and public defender’s offices rendered him a superior choice to Bushey and Schrader.
“Based on all of our meetings,” said Ovitt, “John McMahon has the respect of the department and the law enforcement agencies he works with, the public defender, the district attorney, and probation. The right man for the job at this time is John McMahon.”
On December 31, McMahon is due to be sworn in as the 35th sheriff in San Bernardino County since its founding in 1853. He will follow Robert Clift, Joseph Bridger, Valentine J. Herring, Charles W. Piercy, William Tarleton, Anson Van Leuven, E.M. Smith, J.A. Moore, Henry Wilkes, Benjamin F. Matthews, G.F. Fulgham, Newton Noble, A.J. Curry, William Davies, John C. King, J.B. Burkhart, Nelson Green Gill, John Albert Cole, Edwin Chidsey Seymour, James P. Booth, Francis L. Holcomb, Charles A. Rouse, John C. Ralphs, J.L. McMinn, Walter A. Shay, Ernest T. Shay, Emmett L. Shay, James W. Stocker, Eugene W. Mueller, Frank Bland, Floyd Tidwell, Richard G. Williams, Gary Penrod, and Rod Hoops.
McMahon indicated he will seek election in 2014 to retain the position, which provides an annual salary of $225,574 plus $217,115 per year in benefits for a total compensation package of $442,689.