Leon Says He Is The Right Candidate To Roll Back Job-Killing Regulation

Ontario Mayor Paul Leon said he is the best candidate in the field of six running for State Senate in the 32nd District.
That race, which involves polling to be held on March 12 to choose someone to fill out the remaining two years of Gloria Negrete-McLeod’s term, pits Leon against Assemblywoman Norma Torres, San Bernardino County Treasurer-Tax Collector-Auditor-Controller Larry Walker, Pomona Planning Commissioner Ken Coble, Ontario City Councilman Paul Vincent Avila and Rialto School Board Member Joanne Gilbert. The election was necessitated by Negrete-Mcleod’s election to Congress in November.
Leon said the theme of his campaign will be “Creating Jobs in the Inland Empire” and that he will achieve that goal by a wholesale slashing of red tape.

Paul Leon

“The first thing we have to do is roll back job killing regulation and prevent any further job killing bills from being passed,” Leon said. “I will go through the books like a Roto-Rooter to find the worst laws that are still in effect  prohibiting businesses from being successful. I would also like to see put in place a program that replaces redevelopment and gives cities the tools to be productive again.”
Two of Leon’s strongest and best funded competitors in the race are Torres and Walker. All three have served as mayors. In Torres’ case, she was Pomona mayor before she went on to the Assembly. Walker was Chino mayor and later a member of the county board of supervisors before achieving the post of auditor controller. Leon acknowledged that Torres and Walker had held leadership posts equal to his own but said he stands over them in terms of what he has achieved in that leadership role.
“What distinguishes me from them is what distinguishes Ontario from Pomona and Chino,” he said. “Look at Pomona when Norma was mayor and the legacy of what she left. Look at Chino when Larry was mayor and what came afterward. Then look at Ontario. There is no comparison. The record speaks for itself.”
Ontario is the economic powerhouse among San Bernardino County’s 24 cities, with revenue into all of its funds – general, reserve, enterprise, special project, etc. – that dwarfs those of the others. The city’s $442,692,349 2012-13 budget is more than twice the size of the next largest spending city in the county.
“The success of the city of Ontario wasn’t an accident,” Leon said. “It took leadership that had the discipline and guts to say no when the money was flowing, so that now we are financially secure now that the flood gates of money coming in are closed. It wasn’t always popular to refuse  growing our expenditures and expanding our programs, but today we aren’t closing  our libraries and community centers and laying off our staff and reducing our city programs. All of those are just as robust and successful today as in the boom times. We are still living within our budget. The quality of life in Ontario never changed even though the economy fell through the floor. You cannot say that for those other cities. Ask anyone where they would want to live – in Chino of the 80s or Pomona of a few years ago or Ontario today and in the future. Investing in Ontario and living here is not a bad decision. Ontario has a bright future. I think I had something to do with that.”
Leon said that since he understands what it takes to run a city efficiently, he can take that knowledge to Sacramento and advocate on behalf of local citizens and governments to ensure that the state government does not bully smaller agencies and governments and the taxpayers to maintain its bloated and inefficient, tax-wasting programs.
“Becoming state senator will give me a great opportunity to speak with not only members of the legislature but public officials at the local level and share my ideas and vision,” he said. “I do believe local government is important. Local government should get every opportunity to control its own destiny and govern itself. I do not think the state should take away from  local governments the opportunity to make decisions for themselves. My goal will be to make decisions in Sacramento that will support those at the local level and shape laws and regulations that are beneficial and not restrictive. Members of the legislature are permitted to go back after the fact and change the record on the way they voted, even though that doesn’t change the result of the vote. I will never change my vote or change the record to reflect that I voted any differently than the votes I actually cast. I will study the issues before I vote. I will not cast a vote if I do not know ahead of time the impact my vote will have. For a public official to vote one way and then say later he voted a different way is completely ridiculous.”
If he is sent to Sacramento, Leon vowed that he would fight to ensure that the state government “keeps its promise with Proposition 30,” which was passed by voters in November. “Proposition 30 was the best smoke and mirrors bait and switch proposition I have seen in years.  They singled out schools and college tuition as the reason to increase our taxes, telling everyone that if this wasn’t passed they would have to take money from our schools and that the tax money would be kept for education. They used to say the same thing about the fire departments and the police departments but with pensions being the negative issue out there it became an easier target to threaten that the schools would be cut drastically. Now they are using that money for things other than schools. I would sponsor legislation that would prevent the legislature or the governor from threatening schools with budget reductions until Proposition 30 is no longer on the books.”
Leon said, “I believe I am the right person at the right time in the right place for this position. I think I look like and I share commonality with the population of this region. I share a culture and history with the people of the 32nd District, I have a great track record in running the most successful city in this region and I want to build on that by becoming a representative on a much broader level.”

Flap Ensues After Walker Omits Treasurer Tax Collector From His Ballot Designation

San Bernardino County Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector Larry Walker has dropped the treasurer-tax collector portion of his title on his official ballot designation in his run for State Senate.

Larry Walker

Walker has joined five others – Democrats Norma Torres, Paul Vincent Avila, and Joanne Gilbert  as well as Republicans Paul Leon and Ken Coble – in the race to succeed Gloria Negrete-McLeod as state senator in the 32nd Senate District. McLeod was elected to Congress in November with two years remaining on her term.
Walker, a former Chino mayor and member of the board of supervisors, in 1998 successfully ran for county auditor-controller-recorder. Three years ago, in a reorganization, the county recorder’s function was transferred to the county assessor’s office and the auditor-controller was  made the county treasurer-tax collector. In accepting those added duties and title, Walker became the highest paid elected official in the county. He also sustained and overrode criticism that the treasurer’s and auditor/controller’s functions were incompatible ones and his holding both positions created a conflict, akin to a bridge builder also serving as the bridge inspector.
In filling out the paperwork for his state senate candidacy, Walker listed himself as San Bernardino County Auditor-Controller, omitting the Treasurer-Tax Collector portion of his title.
Accordingly, the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters is using only half of his official title in his ballot designation. The Leon and Torres political camps, upon belatedly learning of how Walker would be listed on the ballot, launched protests. They see Walker as deliberately mislabeling himself or misleading voters by that designation. Under one theory, Walker is disassociating himself from the governmental function of tax collection, one which is not particularly popular with taxpayers. Moreover, the title change is also seen as an attempt to deflect the charge that in accepting the potentially incompatible roles of treasurer and auditor, Walker has compromised the financial operations of the county by entering into a circumstance that is rife with conflicts-of-interest.
On behalf of Torres, attorney Sam Crowe, and on behalf of Leon, the San Francisco-based Sutton Law Firm, undertook to file legal challenges of Walker’s ballot designation. At issue is that provision in the California Election Code which provides that a candidate’s ballot designation is to run to no more than three words, with an exception provided for elected officials, who are to use  their full officeholder title without limitation or abridgement.
Crowe’s filing, on behalf of the Democratic Party which last month endorsed Torres, was withdrawn because of an alleged filing error. By the time that issue was resolved and before those acting on Leon’s behalf had moved forward with their challenge, the deadline for such a suit had elapsed.
Walker’s abridged ballot designation will now be the one presented to voters for the March 12 election. This led to accusations that San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Michael Scarpello, a Democrat appointed by the board of supervisors and with Walker a fellow county department head, had shown favoritism toward a sitting county official, a charge that has been made previously.
Scarpello this week denied that his office was in any sense responsible for any advantage Walker may have gleaned from his edited ballot designation. He said the special election and its terms and timing are issues beyond his office’s purview.
“The secretary of state is in charge of the ballot designations,” Scarpello said. He offered his view that Torres’ and Leon’s lawyers had elected not to proceed with the legal challenges because “After researching this thoroughly they probably thought they would not be able to prevail. He [Walker] has an extraordinarily long title that would not fit on the ballot. It is not unprecedented for abbreviations to be used.” In this case, Scarpello said, abbreviations for auditor, controller, treasurer and tax collector would potentially be confusing to voters.
“The decision wasn’t our office’s, but if it had been, we probably would have approved the title of auditor controller,” Scarpello said. “I think that if someone believed his title was incorrect they would have challenged it in court. The fact that no one challenged it in court, speaks for itself.”
Scarpello did not contradict the assertion that Walker may benefit from using the title auditor controller, but said, “That is up to the candidate, what they believe is the most descriptive title. Someone can argue that description is misleading, and I am not speaking for Mr. Walker, but I think Mr. Walker’s contention would be that for years he has been recognized as the auditor controller and he would argue that using all of these shorter abbreviations of his full title would be confusing to the voters. I can’t make his arguments for him. This is an interesting dilemma, but that is what the courts are there for, to work this out for our candidates if someone makes that challenge. In this case, no one did.”

Montclair Considering Outsourcing Fire Service

Montclair city officials are giving serious consideration to the outsourcing of that municipality’s fire department.
A confluence of issues in this city of 36,664 bordering Los Angeles County has led to the possible dissolution of the two-station Montclair Fire Department in favor of contracting with the San Bernardino County Fire Department or the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as CAL FIRE.
Ironically, the dissolution of the department in some measure was instigated by members of the department and their union, who have now given second thought to wisdom of the outsourcing options as currently proposed.
Both the county and CAL FIRE proposals being contemplated by the city council would entail administrative, operational and salary realities that are not in keeping with those the firefighters had in mind when they made the request. At the same time, city officials have embraced the outsourcing concept as one which will entail the regionalization of fire service and an expansion of resources. As such, there appears to be significant momentum pushing the city of Montclair toward the dissolution of the fire department.
At the root of the move are financial causes, brought on by the downturn of the economy, dwindling governmental revenue and the conflation of governmental services. As a result of the state of California’s shuttering of municipal redevelopment agencies throughout the state, toward the end of the 2010-11 fiscal year, Montclair laid off 10 employees as part of its effort to make up for its loss of redevelopment money. Throughout much of 2010-11, one of the Montclair Fire Department’s paramedic units was parked and the paramedics functioned from the department’s remaining engines, which stayed in service. Over the last year-and-a-half, the 27-firefighter department has lost three positions to attrition, and has not filled those vacancies, making up for the manpower shortage with overtime. In September, city manager Edward Starr, in a cost-cutting move that saved the city nearly half a million dollars a year in wages and benefits, elevated police chief Keith Jones to the position of director of public safety and gave fire chief Troy Ament his two-week severance notice.
Firefighters, concerned at the city’s parsimonious approach, looked to pick up whatever leverage they could. That included floating a proposal to have the fire department outsourced to the Los Angeles County Fire Department, where firefighters receive more generous salaries and benefits than do Montclair’s firefighters. And in another bid for political pull, the firefighters joined with the police union in backing two challengers, Sean Brunske and Richard Beltran, in the 2012 city council election in which long time incumbents Carolyn Raft and John Dutrey were standing for reelection.
Previously, the city of Upland approached Los Angeles County to see if its fire department would provide it with a fire service proposal. Los Angeles County turned Upland down because Cal Fire and LA County Fire have an agreement that Cal Fire will not come into Los Angeles County to seek contracts and Los Angeles County has agreed not to go into San Bernardino County or Orange County for contract agencies. For that reason, and because the San Bernardino County Local Formation Commission is opposed to having service boundaries cross county lines, Montclair did not approach Los Angeles County to provide a fire service proposal. Montclair did, however, consider mergers with the city of Ontario, the Chino Valley Fire Protection District, the county of San Bernardino and CAL FIRE. The county of San Bernardino and CAL FIRE responded to the city’s request for proposals. Both Ontario and Chino Valley declined, Starr said. Starr has now evaluated the proposals from San Bernardino County and CAL FIRE. In addition, there had been some discussion with the city of Upland about creating a joint powers authority to operate a fire department in both cities.
“Neither the county fire division nor CAL FIRE are contiguous with Montclair,” Starr told the Sentinel, “but CAL FIRE has a contract with Chino Valley and operates a fire station in Chino Hills that is engaged mainly in grasslands and wildlands fire suppression. They also have a service area north of Upland. The county’s closest fire station is in Fontana. Those service areas are not contiguous to Montclair but are close enough to provide normal and routine service.”
Starr pointed out that the vast majority of fire department activity is now emergency medical call related. He said that only seven percent of the calls the fire department responds to in Montclair pertain to fires.
“We have the equipment to serve the community and they have the ability to meet our needs,” Starr said. “This enhances resources. It doesn’t represent a denigration of resources. Regionalization represents a greater expansion of resources. They can provide economies of scale that make sense and might be appropriate.”
Starr said there is a better than even possibility the city will outsource the fire department.
“I have not polled the council,” he said, “but we have scheduled to have members of the council look at stations CAL FIRE and the county operate.  I have looked and carefully analyzed the proposals and have provided the council with my executive summary. I would not speak for the council but I heard positive reaction to some of the points. I would say it sounds like they will give outsourcing a fair consideration.”
Starr said the firefighters’ union was strongly in favor of outsourcing the department to the county of Los Angeles because “They would have greater opportunity for advancement there. Los Angeles County has more resources. They also offer a higher pay scale and more benefits.” But outsourcing to Los Angeles County is not on the table and neither Ontario nor Chino Valley, which would have been the firefighters second and third choices, responded, Starr said.
“The firefighters association wanted LA County,” Starr said. The association has since objected to at least one element of the way the San Bernardino County Fire Department does business. The law firm representing the firefighters association, Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir, wrote a letter to the city, Starr said, “protesting the county’s employment of limited term firefighter paramedics. The county hires new personnel to serve as  apprentices for three years, who are then hired  The association made clear in the letter it does not like the limited term firefighter concept. On the other hand, CAL FIRE pays less than the county but when CAL FIRE’s premium pay component is considered, that brings their firefighters up to Montclair’s standard.”
Having rued what they wrought, the firefighters may now take a stand against the outsourcing, Starr said, though they may not be able to change the city’s course.
“They may have the will to oppose this but it doesn’t appear they have the political muscle,” Starr said. “They could try to give the city council some grief, but I don’t think that will work. The only gauge I have is the November 2012 election campaign and its outcome.  The firefighters’ union combined with the police union to run two candidates against the council incumbents up for election. They did terribly. Both unions put a significant amount of money into the campaign. The one of their candidates who came closest had nearly 1,000 fewer votes than the incumbent who ran in second place. Their other candidate was off by 2,300 or 2,400 votes.  This council has been resolute in whatever direction they choose to take. There is no infighting. They are not divided. Whatever they decide to do they will stick to, whether it is to keep the fire department or outsource it. It will probably be a 5-0 vote.  I think the recession has told us a lot. Residents are no longer listening to public employees’ message that they are not receiving adequate pay and benefits.”
Chris Jackson, who heads the Montclair Firefighters Association, told the Sentinel, “All we are aware of is requests for proposals were sent out to the California Division of Forestry and the San Bernardino Fire Department. We made a request using the California Public Records Act to see the proposals and were denied. So, we do not know what is in the proposals or the terms, whether they mean downsizing or increasing the level of service or if this will be more expensive. We are waiting in the wings.”
Without actually seeing the proposal from CAL FIRE, Jackson said he is certain that agency offered “a lower level of fire service that would be a disservice to every citizen and business in Montclair. CAL FIRE is a wildlands fire agency that has no presence here. I know city manager Ed Starr wanted to look at them as an option, but the way they do business will not work here and it just does not make sense logistically. We are absolutely opposed to the California Division of Forestry. Their fire chief is in Sacramento. There would be no local control.”
The best option, Jackson said, would have been the Los Angeles County Fire Department. It was absolutely untrue, he said, that jurisdictional conflicts would prevent such a takeover.
“The Los Angeles County Fire Department is one of the premier departments in the country,” he said. “There is nothing to keep us from going with L.A. County. Both Pomona and Claremont are on our border and we have mutual aid with both of those cities and Los Angeles County. We wanted the city to look at all options and they did not do that.”
Jackson said the city had limited its invitations to San Bernardino County and CAL FIRE, bypassing both Chino Valley and Ontario, both of which he said would have been excellent choices. “Large entities can provide more services, more quickly” he said. “Those departments are right next to us. There would be no delays in transport time with either Ontario or Chino Valley.”
At the same time, Jackson said, Montclair’s firefighters are favorably disposed toward the San Bernardino County Fire Department. “With them, we would still have local control. Their fire chief, Mark Hartwig, an outstanding individual, has an office in San Bernardino. The county would offer greatly enhanced availability of services. They would be able to put a whole lot of boots on the ground and they offer resources that are more than adequate. San Bernardino County would be far superior to CAL FIRE.”
Starr indicated the joint power Upland Montclair fire department concept is still under consideration, but is on “the back burner,” he said. “Upland has its own financial issues.”
He said that if CAL FIRE or the county subsumes the fire department, all 24 of the current firefighters working in Montclair will be absorbed into the new operations.

Case Against Second Officer Caught Up In POST Scandal Prosecution Dismissed

The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office has dismissed criminal charges against a second of seven sheriff’s department employees charged with involvement in a police training fraud conspiracy case initially filed in March 2011.
Sheriff’s lieutenant Russell Wilke on February 1 was exonerated of the three charges lodged against him on a motion brought by deputy district attorney Dan Silverman before Superior Court Judge Michael Smith. Wilke had been charged with perjury, attempted grand theft and conspiracy.
According to an indictment handed down in March 2011 by a grand jury that had heard from 22 witnesses, retired assistant sheriff Michael Stodelle,  retired captain Hobart Gray, retired lieutenant William Maddox, Wilke, corporal detective David Pichotta, custody specialist Angela Gray, and training specialist Sallyann Christian had involved themselves in the falsification of records relating to Stodelle’s, Hobart Gray’s, Maddox’s, Willke’s and Pichotta’s attendance of classes conducted at the sheriff’s training academy for so-called POST classes.
POST – Police Officer Standard Training – covers a number of professional law enforcement topics, issues and techniques. Officers are required to remain current on these matters. Upon completion of the classes, officers qualify for enhanced professional grading and salary enhancements. According to the indictment, Stodelle, Hobart Gray, Maddox, Wilke, and Pichotta signed their names or arranged to have their names signed on attendance rosters for classes at the sheriff’s training academy that they never attended. Angela Gray, Hobart Gray’s wife, and Christian worked at the training facility and were alleged in the indictment to have assisted the others in falsifying the rosters.
Silverman has been the lead prosecutor on the case since its inception. In July, he dropped all criminal charges against Maddox, after Maddox’s attorney, Michael Scafiddi, provided documentation and information to the district attorney’s office demonstrating Maddox completed all of the training certification courses he was credited with completing. The certification Maddox received for having completed a dispatch class was validly based upon, Scafiddi said, Maddox opening a dispatch center in the desert, an effort which required him to coordinate  with other agencies throughout the state and researching both technical and procedural issues.  Sheriff’s academy staff informed Maddox, Scafiddi said, that his research on the topic qualified him to “audit” the dispatch class and that he was instructed by his captain to apply for the advanced certificate ten months later. Maddox was retired from the department when he was charged.
Wilke, also a lieutenant, was still employed by the department when the indictment was handed down. Like the others that were still employed with the department when the charges were filed – Angela Gray, Christian and Pichotta – Wilke was placed on administrative leave. After the sheriff’s department’s professional standards division, also known as internal affairs, completed an investigation into the matter, Wilke was cleared and returned to duty with the department, despite the charges still pending against him. By September 2012, the district attorney’s office’s internal assessment of the case against the six remaining defendants led it to conclude that obtaining a conviction against Wilke would be problematic, given the outcome of the professional standards investigation and information  indicating Wilke had not participated in falsifying his training attendance record. Reportedly, that investigation uncovered training certifications of several other sheriff’s officers, including ones higher ranking than Wilke, that were as or more questionable than Wilke’s. None of those officers has been charged by the district attorney’s office. Proceeding to court against Wilke would have likely led his attorney, Chuck Nacsin, to enter the professional standards report into evidence as well as call several witnesses who would have shed further discredit on members of the department and called into question the motivation of the sheriff’s captain, Steve Dorsey, who investigated the case and recommended the filing of the charges.
Previously, Nacsin, referred to the consideration that “Internal affairs brought him in and they cleared him to go back to work” as an “oddity about this case.”
The district attorney’s office delayed more than four months in dismissing the case, looking for a propitious time to do so. That timing occurred when Pichotta, who is married to former sheriff Gary Penrod’s stepdaughter, accepted a plea deal that called for the three felony perjury, grand theft and conspiracy charges against him to be dismissed in return for his agreement not to contest a single grand theft charge that had been reduced to a misdemeanor.
Silverman said the charges against Wilke were being vacated in the interest of justice. The charges against the four remaining defendants are active.

Navarro To Remain In Two Posts While AG Opinion On Matter Is Sought

The consideration of whether Gil Navarro can serve on the county school board and San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District Board will now be taken up by the state attorney general’s office.
The county board of education voted 4-1, with Navarro in abstention, to seek the state attorney general’s opinion on the matter. Navarro was elected to the water district board in November. He has been a member of the school board since 2006, having been most recently reelected to a four-year term in 2010.
County superintendent of schools Gary Thomas, with whom Navarro has had differences, sought from San Bernardino County Counsel Jean-Rene Basle an opinion on the potential incompatibility of Navarro holding both offices. Basle, citing a previous attorney general’s opinion, concluded there might be a “significant clash of duties and loyalties,” which would require Navarro to leave the school board. He did not comply with that suggestion, however, instead citing the precedent of Blanca Estella Rubio, a board member with the Baldwin Park Unified School District, who in 2004 was also elected to the board of directors of the Valley County Water District.  A challenge of Rubio’s dual capacities  went to civil trial and in October 2005, a jury ruled in a 9-3 decision that Rubio could hold both positions.
County school board president Bette Harrison called it “a legal matter that needs to be resolved…through the attorney general.”

Barstow Completes Consolidation Of Police And Fire Dispatch Systems

BARSTOW—Effective as of Monday, February 4, municipal public safety service dispatch in this Mojave Desert city of 22,639 was consolidated.
As was resolved by the city council and the fire district’s board in June, the Barstow Police Department and Fire Protection District have now merged their dispatch functions.
Prior to Monday, the police department operated its own dispatch center and the fire department contracted with the county’s fire service dispatch system, known as Confire JPA Communications, which operates out of the San Bernardino County Communications Center in Rialto. The contract with Confire set the city back $179,000 per year.
The police department dispatch system fielded well over 33,000 calls of all type and order of magnitude in the last year. Roughly 10,000 of those were for emergency services most logically provided by the fire department. Those calls were immediately patched through to the Rialto Confire JPA communications system, which in turn reached a determination as to which of the Barstow Fire Protection District’s two fire stations would be the most logical first responder and second responder, and dispatched crews accordingly.
The Barstow Fire Protection District had been an independent district but was absorbed by the city as a subsidiary district in 2010. In June 2012, the city council, acting as the governing board for the district, voted to expand its communications and dispatch facilities and terminate the city’s contract with Confire JPA.
The changeover entailed a one-time $164,000 cost to augment the existing police dispatch center with the requisite equipment and computer software to allow for the efficient sorting of calls and the routing of a call for action to the appropriate station. The merger will in time represent substantial savings to the city.
The police department dispatch center, which previously employed six full time dispatchers, took on two more full-time dispatchers and another two part-time dispatchers. All ten have been provided with training to make them capable of dispatching in response to police, fire and medical calls and emergencies. The four new hires and training for all ten employees will cost the city an estimated $191,000 for the first year of operation.
City officials  planned on having the fire department weaned off of the Confire system by September, at which point that timetable proved to be a bit too optimistic.
By eliminating the middle call from Barstow to Rialto, officials believe response time will be improved. Coordination between the police department and fire department will be enhanced as well, officials say, and in certain cases should provide for greater safety for responders and superior response to those involved in traumatic incidents.
“We are extremely pleased with the merger as we set out to decrease response times, lower operating costs and improve the level of communication between the two departments,” said fire chief Richard Ross. “The dispatchers’ knowledge of the area combined with the additional details we will receive in the field will be invaluable to the fire department as first responders in an emergency.”
Police chief Albert Ramirez said the consolidation will serve to enhance “the level of communication between both public safety departments during critical emergencies [and] strengthen the relationship we have with the fire department.”
The dispatch center will remain part of the police department’s facilities. Two dispatchers will be in place 24 hours per day. As a consequence of the merger, the police and fire departments’ communications will be broadcast over the same frequencies.

County Legal Dispute Brewing Over Land Sold To Lake Arrowhead CSD

Gail Fry
Staff Writer
Following a closed session on January 8, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors authorized its attorneys to initiate legal action against the Lake Arrowhead Community Services District with regard to a land transfer.
The dispute arose after it was discovered that Lake Arrowhead Community Services District (LACSD) and the chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors had mistakenly signed a different agreement than was approved by the board of supervisors.
At issue is a reversionary clause that would allow the county of San Bernardino to retake the land if any of three events took place within a given period commencing with the recordation of the grant deed.  Those three events consisted of the 12.85 acres not being used for public purposes within ten years of the tranfer and/or LACSD attempting to sell or lease the 12.85 acres to a non-public entity or non-affiliate of LACSD within ten years of the transfer and/or the grantee not diligently pursuing commencement of construction of improvements no later than eighteen (18) months from the date of recordation of the grant deed to serve the interests of the LACSD and the public.
The disputed language between the parties involved the provision calling for LACSD to commence construction of its improvements no later than eighteen months from the date the grant deed was recorded.
The grant deed recorded with the county recorder’s office includes the eighteen-month reversionary clause while the grant deed executed by LACSD and the chairman of the board does not.
With the intent of the Lake Arrowhead Community Services District to construct its headquarters building on the property, the county of San Bernardino had sold the 12.85-acres of land located above Papoose Lake to the district for one dollar.
It appears that sometime before its October 4, 2011 meeting, the county of San Bernardino realized there was a problem with its purchase and sale agreement, escrow instructions and grant deed with LACSD, as item 31 on its agenda called for the chair to sign revised documents.
The recommendation made to the board of supervisors for its October 4, 2011 meeting was for it to delete the reversionary language with regard to the eighteen-month time period with which to commence construction in order to allow LACSD additional time to begin construction.
After discussion, the board of supervisors took the item off calendar for its October 4, 2011 meeting in order to reconsider the matter at a later date.
The issue was again before the board of supervisors at its February 28, 2012 meeting in order to again try to resolve the inconsistencies between the two documents.  Its recommendation indicates both the real estate services department and county counsel, “determined the inconsistencies between the two documents could and should be resolved.”  Again the board of supervisors took the matter off calendar.
The dispute between the county and the Lake Arrowhead Community Services District over the language in the purchase agreement, escrow instructions and grant deed is just the latest in a series of events occurring between the parties during the several-year negotiation over the land and its transfer.
LACSD had long planned to purchase the parcel from the county in order to build its headquarters office and maintenance yard, and had been under the impression that the county would sell it to the district for one dollar based on the fact that the Lake Arrowhead Community Services District and  County Service Area 70 D-1 (CSA 70 D-1) had the same ratepayers and it would benefit the community.
CSA 70 D-1 was formed by the voters of Lake Arrowhead on November 5, 1974, when they approved a $7 million bond measure to purchase land and construct Papoose Dam, that an assessment would be added to the property tax bill for properties within the improvement area and that  a county service area in order to maintain the flood protection works and facilities would be created.
LACSD was jolted into action when the county sold a parcel to San Bernardino Mountains Community Hospital (MCH) for $499,100 in January 2009.  The sale of the property to MCH at market prices gave LACSD reason to believe its purchase price would be  increased considerably.
In order to provide it with needed leverage, LACSD issued a press release dated June 10, 2009, where it announced its intention to take over CSA 70 D-1 through a consolidation action taken through the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO).  The press release asserted that if LACSD were able to consolidate CSA 70 D-1 into LACSD then the land would be under its control and it would be able to own the land instead of buying it from the county.
On September 9, 2009, LACSD submitted its application to expand its authority to include park, recreation and flood control powers to LAFCO.  San Bernardino County Special Districts Department on behalf of CSA 70 D-1 opposed LACSD’s application.
On October 27, 2009, the district’s meeting agenda had a “closed” session item regarding negotiations between CSA 70 D-1 and LACSD over the price and terms for purchasing 12.85 acres for the district.
Representatives of the Lake Arrowhead Community Services District  attended the December 14, 2009 meeting of CSA 70 D-1, seeking its board’s expression that it would support a transfer of the land to LACSD for one dollar.
LACSD reasoned that since CSA 70 D-1 and LACSD have the same boundaries and the property was acquired with the same ratepayers’ money, the ratepayers should not have to pay market rates to again purchase the land.
At its December 14, 2009 meeting CSA 70 D-1 board member Bill Dickson characterized LACSD’s actions as “extortion” based on LACSD’s threat to take over the district by submitting its application to LACFO for expanded powers in order to absorb CSA 70 D-1 and take over management of Papoose Dam.
At the March 23, 2010, San Bernardino County Board of Supervisor’s meeting, the board approved a general plan amendment for LACSD allowing a 30,000-square foot building on 12.07 acres.
By September 28, 2010, LACSD withdrew its application for expanded park, recreation and flood control powers that it had submitted to LAFCO on September 9, 2009.  LAFCO had scheduled a hearing with regard to LACSD’s application for December 8, 2010.
At the time LACSD’s General Manager Jack Hoagland explained, “Because we did the acquisition with special districts for the land east of the hospital, we were no longer interested in pursuing the additional powers.”
Another factor entering the picture and impacting the district’s financial ability to pay for the construction of a new headquarters building was the fact that LACSD experienced a million dollar shortfall with regard to its water sales in fiscal year 2010/11 and found itself having to reduce staff and expenses in order to balance the budget.
By its July 27, 2011 meeting, LACSD discussed the fact that it was close to resolving thw dispute  with CSA 70 D-1 over the purchase of the 12.85 acres needed to build its new headquarters and maintenance yard, and approved two contracts in the amount of $368,174 for architectural and engineering services for the project.  Additionally, the district proposed a five-year capital improvement budget to include the costs of constructing the facility.
According to the recommendation at the July 27, 2011 meeting, the county of San Bernardino had already prepared and processed the appropriate entitlements, land use permits and environmental review documents the district needed to allow for the construction of the district facility.
By its September 13, 2011 meeting, LACSD’s plans to construct a new headquarters building hit the skids when it found that other property it was considering selling in order to pay for a portion of its construction costs had received a low appraisal amount.
Additionally, negotiations between LACSD and CSA 70 D-1 with regard to its utility easements and the relocation of a storm water basin had not gone smoothly.
At the time, LACSD General Manager John Hoagland expressed frustration with the county, in that all of its permits had gone through review and approval and they hadn’t “heard boo about this until we are down there trying to get the easements executed and now all of a sudden it’s a big problem.”
“In my mind we have resolved the 18-month 10-year issue and are working with special districts to get that codified,” Hoagland assured the public at its September 13, 2011 meeting, adding, “My recommendation [is] this clearly might not be the right time to just push this forward with such a small return on this facility and the issues associated with just trying to develop the site up there and the continuing surprises we get in dealing with the special districts department.”
At its February 14, 2012 meeting, LACSD was reviewing all of its options with the relocation of its headquarters building, and was even looking at other existing locations that could be leased until such time as they could afford to build a headquarters building and maintenance yard estimated to cost $5,937,750.
For now, LACSD is facing a potential lawsuit from the county over the land for its future headquarters and maintenance yard located above Papoose Dam while it continues to lease its current headquarters building at the Lake Arrowhead Village for $140,000 a year.

SB Council Imposes New Contracts On All Unions

Declaring negotiations with most of the city’s various bargaining units to be at an impasse, the San Bernardino City Council on January 28 voted to impose redrafted contracts on all city employees with the temporary exemption of police management. Once all eight bargaining units are included in the contract adjustment regime, the city will realize savings of almost $26 million  annually from those employee pay and benefit reductions.
Several of the city’s unions protested against the move, saying they were still in the process of making offers and counter-offers. City attorney Jim Penman said the city, which filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection in August, was on sound legal and procedural footing in unilaterally enforcing the salary and benefit cuts.
The city is wrestling with an “institutional” budget deficit which in 2012-13 is equal to $46 million less in income than expenditures. The $26 million in city staff-related reductions were part of a pendency plan submitted to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Meredith Jury in November. While the city’s representatives indicated at that time that the cuts could be effectuated in short order, negotiations with at least four of the eight unions representing the city’s employees have stalled, with three of the bargaining units walking away from the table at one point or another. In the last several weeks, the city has grown more and more insistent that employee concessions were urgently required. Last week, city officials, buffeted by the pending departure of city manager Andrea Travis-Miller to take a position in Los Angeles County as the director of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments and the pending departure of finance director Jason Simpson, made a last ditch effort to mediate a resolution that would allow it to make good on the pendency plan. When that effort fell through, the council scheduled an emergency meeting for Monday at which the imposition of the new contract was under consideration.
By that time, four of the city’s employee bargaining groups had agreed to the revamped contract terms requested by the city. Three others, the union representing middle managers and the police and fire unions, had not. The eighth group, the police management union, submitted a new proposal that day, which city officials had not fully analyzed at the time of the vote. A decision with regard to the police management group’s proposal was put off until February 4. The council then took up the newly configured employee labor agreements for the seven bargaining units, which called for requiring employees to pay a greater portion of their pension costs through the California Public Employees Retirement System; the suspension of  vacation and sick leave payouts; along with the total elimination of retiree medical benefits for new hires, as well as rescinding a 9-percent salary bump for police and fire employees.
Following nearly three hours of discussions in a closed, executive session, the council took up each of the contracts with the seven bargaining units separately. Council members Fred Shorett, Virginia Marquez, Rikke Van Johnson and Wendy McCammack voted in favor of the redrafted contract terms in all seven cases. Councilmen John Valdivia and Chas Kelley opposed all seven. Councilman Robert Jenkins joined with Shorett, Marquez, Johnson and McCammack on the four resolutions relating to the bargaining groups that had accepted the terms but voted with Valdivia and Kelley on the three resolutions relating to the groups that had not accepted the new terms.
The city’s bankruptcy filing has forced a number of political adjustments and accommodations that were not predicted. The necessity of the filing has resulted in something of a truce between Democratic Mayor Patrick Morris and City Attorney Jim Penman, a Republican who unsuccessfully opposed Morris in his 2005 and 2009 mayoral runs. As the city was moving into bankruptcy, Morris, contrary to his party’s pro-public union orientation, found himself at odds with the city’s public unions. Penman previously was an advocate for the city’s public employee unions, despite his GOP ties. In the face of challenges to the bankruptcy, including ones by the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS), which runs the state’s public employee pension system, and at least three of the city’s public employee bargaining units, Penman now finds himself at odds with those groups and, reluctantly, aligned with Morris. McCammack, who has historically been very supportive of the city’s public safety employees, an ally of Penman and an opponent of Morris, has herself taken stands in support of the pendency plan, including forcing the police and fire unions to accept the economies being dictated to them. Valdivia, Kelley and Jenkins, all of whom were elected with strong police and fire union support, have continued to question the need for drawing down police officer and firefighter pay. Without the backing of Penman and more crucially the votes of McCammack, the three do not have the political muscle to exempt the city’s police officers and firefighters and their powerful unions from sharing in the budgetary sacrifices.
Penman, in fact, was a prime mover behind and advocate for the council’s action on Monday, as it will now enable him to return to bankruptcy court and provide Jury with tangible evidence that the city is earnest in applying the pendency plan. In addition to the savings to be achieved by the employee and payroll reductions, the city is asking for Jury to ratify deferring close to $35 million in debt over the course of 2012-13, with a similar suspension of its payments to creditors and vendors over the next couple of years, until such time as the city’s income again meets its expenditures and solvency is achieved.
CalPERS is among those creditors to whom the city is deferring payment. The city has not made any payments into the pension system since the middle of last year. The state public employee pension fund manager has contested the city’s plan and its legal authority to withhold those payments. Monday’s move will strengthen Penman’s ability to argue in court that the city is reining in its spending uniformly and should be permitted to structure its short and long term payments in a way that will allow it to eventually move out of bankruptcy, even if that entails deferring payments to such entities as CalPERS.
Meanwhile, some of the city employee unions, such as the San Bernardino Public Employees Association and the San Bernardino Police Officers Association were miffed with the city council’s unilateral action in imposing the contract changes and were contemplating filing complaints with the state Public Employees Relations Board.
On the council, Valdivia in particular was critical of the move. Morris, however insisted that the cutbacks, imposed or not, had to be made to expedite the bankruptcy protection process and pave the way for the city to meet its financial obligations in the future.

Walker & Leon Stymied By State Democratic Party Endorsement Of Torres

BLOOMINGTON – In a development of some significance to the impromptu Larry Walker and Paul Leon State Senate campaigns, Assemblywoman Norma Torres has captured the California Democratic Party’s endorsement in the race for the post.
In getting the state party nod, Torres outmaneuvered both Walker and his primary political patron in the ongoing effort, Congresswoman Gloria-Negrete-McLeod.
It was Negrete-McLeod’s ascendency to Congress, made possible by her come-from-behind victory over incumbent Congressman Joe Baca in California’s 35th Congressional District in November, that created the vacancy in the 32nd State Senatorial District. State Senators serve four-year terms. Negrete-McLeod was elected to the 32nd post in 2010 and her departure for Washington, D.C. means an election must now be held to determine who will serve out the two years remaining on her State Senate term.
The political jockeying and calculating has been intense. Six entered the fray, including four Democrats and two Republicans.  The Democrats are Torres, San Bernardino County Auditor-Controller-Treasurer Larry Walker, Ontario Councilman Paul Vincent Avila and Rialto Unified School District Board Member Joanne Gilbert. The Republicans are Ontario Mayor Paul Leon and Pomona Planning Commissioner Ken Coble.
The district, which entails all of Pomona in Los Angeles County, and all of Bloomington, Fontana, Montclair, Muscoy, Ontario, and Rialto as well as parts of Colton and San Bernardino in San Bernardino County,  is a solidly Democratic leaning one, with more than 48 percent of the voters registered as Democrats and 32 percent registered Republican. Thus, it is widely assumed that the winner who will emerge when all is said and done will be a Democrat.
If on March 12, the date of the specially called election, one candidate fails to garner a majority of the vote – meaning at least fifty percent plus one vote  – then a run-off between the two top vote-getters will be held. Some Republicans had hoped that the four Democrats in the race will sufficiently divide the Democratic vote, leading to a scenario in which Leon and Coble are the last two candidates left standing.
A second hopeful calculation Republicans have made was that Walker would best Torres and the other Democrats, while Leon would poll a significant majority of the Republican vote, leading to a match-up between Walker and Leon. In addition to the 32nd District being one in which voter registration favors the Democrats, by another demographic measure it is also solidly Hispanic. Within the district, Latino candidates, or at least ones with Hispanic surnames, have fared well against candidates of other ethnicities. In this way, Leon and other Republicans have made no secret of their belief that in a head-to-head contest against Walker, Leon, a Latino, and the GOP could take back one more seat in the state legislature’s upper chamber.
Such a coup seemed possible because of the bad blood that exists between Negrete-McLeod and Torres.
Torres, who was formerly the mayor of Pomona, offended Negrete-McLeod when she endorsed Baca in last year’s Congressional race. Baca, like Negrete-McLeod and Torres, is a Democrat. Negrete-McLeod and Baca found themselves slugging it out for a berth at the Nation’s Capitol because of California’s open primaries, which allow voters to cross party lines during the primary and for the top two vote-getters in the primary, regardless of party affiliation, to qualify for the run-off in the general election in November. At the time Torres made her endorsement of Baca it appeared to be a safe move. He had soundly outpolled Negrete-McLeod in the primary run and enjoyed the status of incumbency. But in the weeks leading up to the November 6 vote, New York Mayor Richard Bloomberg, a Republican, vectored more than $5 million from his Super Political Action Committee, Independence USA, to support McLeod and oppose Baca. Following a blitz of television ads and mailers that denounced Baca in the final days of the race, Baca lost by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent.
Negrete-McLeod, asserting that “elections have consequences,” has reportedly made much or all of the money remaining in her state electioneering fund, which cannot be used in her campaign for Congress, available to Walker, himself a former county supervisor and Chino mayor. It thus appears that Walker, who has his own fundraising capability, will be able to match or exceed Torres in her fundraising.
The state party’s endorsement of Torres, however, severely complicates Walker’s position, as he will run head on into the teeth of the Democratic electioneering machinery if he is going to engage in a Negrete-McLeod bankrolled negative campaign against Torres. A more staid campaign, in which both Walker and Torres stick to the basics of touting their own previous accomplishments and records without resorting to slamming one another, would potentially result in each garnering enough votes to put them in a run-off against one another.
On her end, Torres sounded as if she were prepared to run just such a campaign.
“I am so proud to have gone through this endorsement process,” she said. “We are going to be running a very positive and very energetic campaign.”
On the Republican side, Torres’ success in getting the support of her party was equally troubling to the Leon camp, which was banking on a Donnybrook between Torres and Walker as a major part of its success formula.
Leon has already captured the endorsements of a number of Republican heavyweights, including Congressman Gary Miller, State Senator and Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, former State Senator and Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton, State Senator Bill Emmerson, San Bernardino County supervisors Gary Ovitt and Janice Rutherford, and Ontario councilmen Jim Bowman and Alan Wapner. Salivating at the prospect of getting into a run-off with Walker to test the yet-to-be-fully-developed Republican formula of fielding Hispanic Republican candidates in Democrat-leaning but heavily Hispanic-populated districts, Leon three weeks ago had set for himself the goal of raising $1.5 million to carry out his impromptu campaign for state senator. Given that only three more weeks now remain before he would need to have that campaign cash in hand to begin employing it in earnest, that goal may be a bit optimistic, especially now that potential Republican donors see that Torres and Walker are less likely to lock onto one another in a mutual dance of destruction.
Nevertheless, Leon’s operatives are out on the hustings, militating on Leon’s behalf, most recently, it has been reported, in an effort to convince Coble to drop out of the race so that Leon can monopolize the Republican vote.
Lost in the excitement and fanfare were Avila, who is running a campaign that has no funding to speak of, and Gilbert, who was the only Democratic candidate who competed with Torres for the votes of Democratic Party delegates, who had come together at the Teamsters Union Local 166 headquarters in Bloomington on January 26 to hear Torres and Gilbert’s respective pitches for their support.
Following the vote that went in her favor, Torres said, “I am pleased to have walked away with the support of the delegates. We are moving ahead with our campaign. We need a representative that is in the trenches with the community, working to address the real issues, which are huge job losses that we have had and the issue with home foreclosures in the area. I am confident I will be elected with both Democratic and Republican votes.”
If no victor emerges on March 12, a run-off will be held on May 14.

County Disbands All Of Its Flood Committees

The county this week moved to disband all six of its flood control district advisory committees.
For administrative and planning purposes, the county has divided its flood control district, the boundaries for which are coterminous with those of the county as a whole, into six flood control zones. For each zone, it had a flood control advisory committee.
According to the clerk of the board of supervisors, Laura Welch, a decision was made to terminate the committees upon the sunsetting of the authority by which they were created.
“Unless otherwise specified, the county’s boards, commissions and committees have a specific life of four years and board of supervisors’ approval is required to extend the life of these committees,” Welch said. “The clerk of the board coordinates the periodic review of boards, commissions and committees and, for 2012, sent inquiries to specified liaison agencies asking for their recommendations that the specified boards, commissions and committees be continued or discontinued. Liaison agencies are typically county departments providing administrative support and coordinating activities of the boards, commissions and committees.  We received responses from all liaison agencies and their recommendations form the basis of this request for board of supervisors’ action.”
Welch said the recommendation was to sunset all six of the flood control advisory committees.
“District staff will continue to hold semi-annual city coordination meetings for each zone with city engineers and their staff,” Welch said. “One of these meetings will be an annual budget presentation for each zone to the city staff.”
The 2013 meetings have been calendared for May 9 and September 25 for Zone 1; May 8 and September 25 for Zone 2; May 8 and September 25 for Zone 3; May 16 and September 23 for Zone 4 and May 23 and September 26 for Zone 6. Welch did not provide meeting dates for Zone 5.