Opposition Growing To Hoops’ Choice Of McMahon As His Successor

(November 23)   Momentum is mounting behind a movement to discourage the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors from acceding to outgoing sheriff Rod Hoops’ selection of deputy chief John McMahon as his successor.
Hoops, who was himself appointed sheriff by the board of supervisors when former sheriff Gary Penrod resigned mid-term in 2009 and endorsed him for the job, has tendered his resignation, effective at the end of December. Running as the incumbent sheriff in 2010, Hoops defeated two challengers in that race, Paul Schrader and Mark Averbeck. There will be two years remaining on his term when Hoops leaves office and he wants McMahon to step into his post upon his departure. He has made such a recommendation to the board of supervisors.
But Schrader, who was the runner-up in the race two years ago, and former county marshal Keith Bushey have publicly stated that they believe the board should not conform with Hoops’ expressed preference, as the appointment of McMahon will endow him with the power of incumbency and give him a leg up on any and all opponents he may face in the 2014 election.
Bushey, whose marshal’s position was absorbed into the sheriff’s department when the board of supervisor’s merged the marshal’s office with the sheriff’s department in 1999, served as a deputy chief in the sheriff’s department for six years before retiring in 2005. In a letter to the board of supervisors earlier this month, Bushey announced his own candidacy for sheriff and said there was “universal perception” throughout the sheriff’s department “that sheriff Hoops has already brokered an agreement with the board to ensure the appointment of John McMahon as his replacement.”
Schrader said he intends himself to again run for sheriff in 2014 and he wanted the board of supervisors to carefully ponder the propriety of appointing a replacement from within the department. He said he hoped the county “will abandon sheriff Hoops’ request to appoint an incumbent to his office, which has been a very bad past practice.”
If the board does appoint McMahon, he will become the sixth consecutive holder of the top position in a political machine first established by Frank Bland that has extended back unbroken for 58 years. The Bland dynasty within the sheriff’s department is the second and longest lasting as well as most tenacious one in the county’s 161-year history.
The first political machine to dominate the sheriff’s department over the multiple terms of different sheriffs was that one which began under Walter Shay in 1918. Walter Shay began his law enforcement career in 1899 as a deputy sheriff under then-San Bernardino County Sheriff Charles Rouse. In 1903 he was elected San Bernardino marshall and in 1905 was appointed by San Bernardino Mayor Hiram Barton as the city of San Bernardino’s first chief of police. He twice vacated that post to serve as a railroad company investigator, which paid more money at that time, but was twice induced to come back as San Bernardino police chief. He was working as the chief special investigator for the district attorney’s office in 1918 when he was elected county sheriff, succeeding J.L. McMinn. He was re-elected thrice, in 1922, 1926 and 1930. In 1931 he succumbed to cancer. It was at this point that the Shay regime became a dynasty in the true sense of the word, when his brother, Ernest Shay, was chosen by the board of supervisors to complete his term. Ernest Shay did so, and in 1934 stepped aside so his nephew and Walter Shay’s son, Emmett Shay, could run in his stead. Emmett Shay was elected and he served three full terms in his own right. In 1946, Emmett Shay was defeated by Jim Stocker, bringing the Shay family’s hold on the sheriff’s office to a close.
Jim Stocker’s tenure as sheriff lasted but a single term, when he was defeated by Upland police chief Eugene Mueller. Mueller suffered a similar fate, losing to Frank Bland in the 1954 election after serving one term. Bland was the police chief of Needles and a one-time FBI agent, and he campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, calling for the closure of the houses of prostitution that proliferated in the county along with the pinball halls that he said were distracting teenagers from doing their homework. Upon election, Bland held true to his word and embarked on an effort to shutter the county’s various dens of iniquity, major and minor. Bland would be re-elected six times. In the course of his tenure as sheriff, Bland would establish a political machine that held a cinch lock  hold on the office of sheriff, consisting of scores of political donors who filled his campaign coffers and made running against him successfully a virtual impossibility. That political invulnerability drew to him even more support as time went on and nearly every mover and shaker in the county would pay homage to him, either in the form of political contributions or endorsements or both. Bland would return the favor, endorsing candidates of his liking and putting the arm on his donors to in turn support his political choices.
So powerful was Bland as a political, social and legal entity that he twice overcame political disasters that would have very likely felled any other candidate.
In 1966, information surfaced that Bland himself had pilfered thousands of dollars from a fund that had been set up to provide his deputies working the vice/narcotics detail with money for drug buys, place bets with bookies or make the monetary exchanges needed to arrests  pimps and prostitutes. Despite the revelation, Bland remained in office and was never molested by the district attorney as he was able to bury the negative publicity under an avalanche of positive sounding mailers and handbills and gain re-election.
In 1978, Bland again dodged a mortal bullet when a scandal enveloped his campaign that showed 24 years after his maiden campaign for sheriff based upon eradicating the county of the scourge of prostitution, Bland’s department had become mired in questionable ties with ladies of the evening. At a Bland campaign fundraiser in April of that year at Sweeten Hall in Rancho Cucamonga, donors and others in attendance with Bland were offered the services of prostitutes inside a trailer within the hall’s parking lot. A bust of the proceedings corralled a couple of the girls, a member of the sheriff’s department and one of Bland’s supporters. The ensuing case was prosecuted by deputy district Bill Parker, leading to revelations about the matter that came too late to prevent Bland from being elected to serve a seventh term.
In 1982, Bland, then 69, stepped down, intending to hand off the reins to his second-in-command, undersheriff Floyd Jones. But Jones had a heart condition and instead, the Bland Political Machine swung in behind Bland’s second choice, Floyd Tidwell, an inspector and assistant sheriff with the department. The development community had long before demonstrated itself as a powerful element in the sheriff’s electioneering team. In 1982, Garry Brown, the executive director of the Baldy View chapter of the Building Industry Association, served as Tidwell’s campaign manager. Tidwell handily defeated his opponent, sheriff’s candidate Chuck Callahan, who was considered a renegade with the department for defying Bland’s will.
Just prior to the 1986 election Garry Brown was caught on tape telling undercover operative David Kenneth Thomas that he and another key Bland political supporter, James Hunter Price, could arrange for Thomas and those Thomas was associated with to get licensing for and open massage parlors that would be fronts for brothels. The owners of those establishments could prevent arrests of their employees and evade prosecution of themselves and their businesses’ operators through the delivery of large-scale campaign contributions to the sheriff, Brown and Hunter told Thomas, who was wearing a hidden sound recording device. That money would provide the bordellos’ operators with advance warning of the time and place of vice operations, Brown and Hunter said.
Brown and Hunter, as well as Herschel Jennings, the operator of two such operations in Bloomington and Adelanto, were arrested and charged with activity relating to keeping a house of prostitution, along with several girls who worked in the massage parlors. That scandal did not prevent Tidwell from being elected in 1986, but revelations about the case, including Thomas’s alleged suicide during an armed standoff with 27 sheriff’s deputies in 1988 threatened Tidwell’s prospects for reelection in 1990. He stepped down and the political machine that Bland had created which was now at his disposal was made available to his hand-picked designee, Dick Williams.
Williams cruised to an overwhelming victory and served one term as sheriff. Williams then  handed the political machine over to Gary Penrod, at that time a deputy chief with the department. Penrod used more than $500,000 in campaign money provided to him by that machine to hold off challenges by six other candidates in the 1994 race. Penrod was reelected three times before he retired half way through his fourth term in 2009, endorsing Hoops as his successor. The board of supervisors complied with his wishes.
Next Tuesday, November 27, the board of supervisors is scheduled to discuss the process for choosing Hoops’ successor. A growing contingent of county residents opposed to the board’s ratification of his designee, including those advocating either Schrader or Bushey, are expected to be present during the board’s discussion.
One county resident, Fritz Koenig of Yucca Valley, noted that the board of supervisors’ chairwoman, Josie Gonzales, said she hoped the discussion at the November 27 meeting would serve to determine the process the board will use to designate Hoops’ replacement “so the position is filled before he leaves at the end of the year.”
Koenig told the Sentinel, “In my judgment, a fair and objective process to select the next Sheriff and all the top executives of any county will include a recruitment process drawing from across the nation. Such would take far longer than one month.”
Koenig added, “Here we have a county attempting to gain control of an international airport, which implies they have some competency with international business, but they continue to suggest that they need not look farther than their most immediate resources to fill this office. I will be at that board meeting, and I hope to address the board.”

Leave a Reply