Nuaimi To Impose 17 Percent Reductions On Yucca Valley Staff

YUCCA VALLEY — Less than two months after the town council upped Yucca Valley Town Manager Mark Nuaimi’s total yearly compensation package to just under $300,000, Nuami last week announced that he will lay off or accept the retirements of eight of the town’s veteran employees.
In his quest to eradicate a $400,000 budget deficit, Nuaimi on March 28 said he was laying off the town’s associate planner and Yucca Valley’s two recreation coordinators. Heading into retirement, he said, would be town clerk Jamie Anderson, community services director Jim Schooler, museum supervisor Lynn Richardson, along with a museum assistant, an animal shelter administrative assistant and a code compliance technician.
In structuring the retirements for the six, Nuaimi offered them dual incentives. The first incentive was that they could avoid involuntary pink slips by acceding to a voluntary and early retirement. All six were offered six months’ severance salary and 12 months of medical insurance for themselves and a single dependent.
Schooler oversaw the town’s recreation department. With his departure and those of the recreation coordinators, the town’s recreation activities will be substantially curtailed. Another existing employee will take over the recreation supervisor position part time.
The animal shelter administrative assistant and code compliance technicians will be replaced, likely at a pay and benefit level below what their predecessors received.
Nuaimi will not fill the recently created vacancy in the town’s roads maintenance division, brought on by an employee resignation.
Overall, the layoffs, retirements and reorganization entail a 17 percent reduction in the town’s workforce, from 41 to 34 full time employees, and will save $300,000 in the upcoming fiscal year as the retirement incentives are cashed out, and $725,000 per year thereafter.
Anderson, who started with Yucca Valley as its maiden town clerk at the time of incorporation in November 1991, will take with her a degree of institutional memory.
The Hi-Desert Nature Museum will remain open, despite having now lost its supervisor and one of its three remaining employees, and will likely function on reduced hours while relying on volunteer workers.
“I thank all the staff who opted for early retirement. In taking this incentive, they are helping the town balance its budget,” said Nuami who receives $190,000 per year in base salary and $103,339 in deferred compensation and benefits per year. His total compensation package will increase to $300,840 by 2015. His contract is guaranteed through 2016.
A town budget workshop will be held at City Hall at 9 a.m. Saturday April 6.

Clauder Hits County With $7.5 Million Claim For False Arrest And Malicious Perversion Prosecution

(April 5) Former congressional aide Sam Clauder, who lost his position in the office of then-U.S. Representative Joe Baca after he was charged with felony possession of child pornography and then endured a more than three-year legal battle to clear his name culminating in the dismissal of the charges last September, has filed a $7.5 million claim against San Bernardino County, the sheriff’s department and the district attorney’s office.
On March 28, attorney Tim Prince filed the claim on Clauder’s behalf, naming deputy district attorney Maryanne Choi, sheriff’s detective Michael Pelkey, and district attorney Michael Ramos.
Clauder was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography after the sheriff’s department was provided with access to Clauder’s computer by Clauder’s son, Trey Stancher. Prohibited images were found to have been downloaded onto the computer. Clauder maintained his innocence from the outset of the case, but was fired by Baca after word of the arrest became public.
The case dragged on for more than three years. In preparation for his defense, Clauder retained the services of a computer forensics expert, Sheryl Katz,  who was able to establish that the images had been downloaded during a time when Clauder did not have access to the computer, which at that point was in the possession of his son and his ex-wife, Lana Pittman.  Pittman and Stancher maintained that the computer was password protected and they had no access to it. But Katz determined, and sheriff’s department computer analysts later confirmed, that the computer had some 30,000 system events, with daily activity, between May 1 and July 7, 2008, during which time Clauder was not living with Pittman and Stancher.
After the sheriff’s High Tech Crime Unit, which had previously failed to carry out the more exacting analysis Katz performed, confirmed Katz’s findings, Stancher was interrogated by sheriff’s Sgt. Roberto Lomeli. During the course of Lomeli’s questioning, Stancher acknowledged an “uncontrollable hate” for his father and that it was he who had downloaded the child pornography onto his father’s computer.
That confession was backed by the analysis Katz had done of Clauder’s computer hard drive and confirmed by the High Tech Crime Unit, indicating the offending images downloaded onto the computer bore the tell-tale electronic signature cybernetically imprinted when they  had been obtained via peer-to-peer networking software registered to Stancher’s account.
Choi, who had previously refused to accept anything less than a guilty plea that would have subjected Clauder to at least four years in prison, requested in September that the case against Clauder be dismissed “in the interest of justice.” The Superior Court issued a finding of factual innocence in Clauder’s case in December.
According to Prince, Clauder was the victim of a “malicious and selective prosecution” by the district attorney’s office, which is headed up by a Republican, Mike Ramos. Clauder, a Democrat, was active in several party causes, including being, according to Prince, “on opposite sides of a long-term major political battle to determine the use of the El Toro Marine Base in Orange County” with David Ellis, Ramos’ campaign manager.
Prince alleges that the malicious prosecution was made possible by the actions of Pelkey, who, according to Prince “harbored personal animosity towards Clauder” because of Clauder’s work as a journalist that included articles that threw of a rape case  investigation carried out by  Pelkey and his colleagues at the Twin Peaks sheriff’s station into a bad light.
“The false charges were instigated by deputy Pelkey,” the claim states. “The county also deliberately refused to examine the family desktop computer, or three other computers Clauder used, to determine whether Clauder downloaded the images upon which the felony charges were based.  Deputy district attorney Marianne Choi took over the case and prosecuted it with malice under orders from, and with the approval of, district attorney Michael Ramos. The only alleged evidence to support these serious felony charges were the county’s failed polygraphs of Clauder’s estranged wife and 24-year-old son containing lies generated from a contentious divorce. Although both subjects failed their polygraph exams, San Bernardino County Sheriff Deputy M. Pelkey covered it up by referring to them as ‘witnesses’ and hiding the fact that no evidence supported the charges.”
Clauder spent a total of 56 days in jail due to the arrest and felony charges against him.
A claim is a precursor to a lawsuit. Only upon the rejection of such a claim, as in this case by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, can the allegedly damaged party proceed with a lawsuit.

Most Recent ASB Embezzlement Case Gets Different Response From HUSD

(April 5) HESPERIA—Recent allegations of financial malfeasance at Oak Hills High School have elements in common with an incident more than three years ago at Sultana High School which eventually played a part in the dismissal of the district superintendent.
After what was believed to be a substantial amount of money went missing at Oak Hills High, the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools invited state auditors to examine the high school’s financial ledgers.
An audit performed by the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) of the  bookkeeping and accounting practices of the Oak Hills High School’s Associated Student Body  found not only undeniably inadequate financial accountability but an apparent incident, or perhaps repeated incidents, of fraud and embezzlement.
According to auditors, $130,000 in student funds is missing and the matter is being sent to the district attorney’s office for further determination and perhaps prosecution.
FCMAT’s findings are that the student body’s books are rife with “fraudulent financial statements” together with evidence of “asset misappropriation.
Interim Hesperia Unified School District Superintendent David McLaughlin, said “I can confirm that the district intends to cooperate fully with the proper authorities,” indicating the district will “seek punitive action if, and where, criminal activity took place.”
McLaughlin’s quick move to punt the matter to the district attorney contrasts with the way in which a matter that also involved the disappearance or embezzlement of student funds at Sultana High in 2009 was handled by McLaughlin’s predecessor as superintendent, Mark McKinney.
Both Oak Hills and Sultana are high schools in the Hesperia Unified School District. The 2009 Sultana case involved a somewhat less substantial sum than the one currently involving Oak Hills. McKinney elected to handle that matter administratively rather than allowing the Hesperia School District police force to carry out a full-fledged investigation.
Later, as financial problems beset the district and McKinney moved to shed personnel through a downsizing and layoff process that touched on the function and personnel of the district police force, McKinney in 2011 found himself accused by several district police officers, including the district police chief Mike Graham, of having covered up the embezzlement. A protracted war of words between McKinney and Graham ensued, with Graham being accused of insubordination and then suffering an unceremonious termination. Graham appealed that suspension, but McKinney was backed up by board president Chris Bentley and board members Eric Swanson and Niccole Childs, who sustained Graham’s firing.
Thereafter, Graham sued the district for wrongful termination and Bentley was defeated for reelection last November. In December, a new ruling coalition on the school board formed, including Hardy Black, who had supported Graham against Bentley, Swanson and Childs. Black, with the two board members elected in November, Cody Gregg and Ella Rogers,  fired McKinney in December. Last month, Superior Court Judge John P Vander Feer ruled in Graham’s favor in his wrongful termination suit and ordered him restored as district police chief with back pay.
The documentation of the wrongdoing in the Oak Hills High case was significantly more advanced than in the matter at Sultana High. That documentation was accrued because in 2011 McKinney responded to the Oak Hills case more aggressively than he had at Sultana. The district brought in an independent auditor, who tracked several anomalies in the student body fund account, which consisted of money accrued by the high school’s clubs and organizations. Among the financial irregularities were  late and delinquent deposits and unjustified and undocumented balance write-offs.
The district put a bookkeeper on administrative leave and reassigned the ASB adviser. Upon returning from that administrative leave, the bookkeeper resigned according to FCMAT. The replacement bookkeeper subsequently found negative balances and overall insufficient cash balances for several of the clubs, together with multiple past due bills. At that point, the county superintendent of schools was contacted.

Wu Puts Chino Hills Chinese Maternity Hotel On The Market For $3.3 Million

CHINO HILLS — The hilltop estate which became the focus of protest when it was publicly revealed to be serving as a birthing hotel intended to provide the offspring of Chinese women with American citizenship has been listed as available for sale.
The 7,964-square foot home at 15250 Woodglen Drive, originally built in 1974 had been altered by owner Hai Yong Wu to feature 17 separate bedrooms and adjoining bathrooms, into which Chinese woman would be installed during the final stages of their pregnancies. American citizenship is automatically conferred upon anyone born in the United States.
Citizen complaints led to a court-ordered inspection in November, at which point it was learned that as many as 15 women were living in the home at any given time. A  public nuisance complaint was filed on December 7 against Wu and his business associate Yi Wang,  based upon a bevy of city code violations. Wu, through his  attorney, entered into an agreement in February to bring the home into code compliance within  210 days. Assurances were provided that the home was no longer being used as a maternity hotel, although there were concerns that activity might resume once the code violations were redressed.
It now appears that Wu is intent on folding up operations at 15250 Woodglen Drive entirely. In March, Rowland Heights-based IRN Reality listed the property as being on the block for $3.3 million. There is a discrepancy between the listing and the description for the property. While the listing shows the 7,924-square foot  property as having  seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms, the description says “the size of property is around 15,000-square feet – over 10 bedrooms with six detached garages.”
The online real estate database Zillow, however, provides a value estimate of the property of  $1,147,024.
The difference in the appraisal and the asking price may be explicated by the consideration that the property sits on a 256,133-square foot lot, i.e., over 5.8 acres.

Goodrich In $21.5 Million Settlement With EPA Over Rialto Contamination

(March 29) RIALTO–Goodrich Corporation, one of five corporate entities or their successors suspected of being responsible for perchlorate contamination in the water table beneath Rialto, has entered into a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency and other state and local regulatory agencies to effectuate an environmental cleanup.
Goodrich Corporation will pay no less than $21.5 million to defray the cost of the remediation of perchlorate and trichloroethylene contamination at the 160-acre B.F. Goodrich Superfund Site in northern Rialto, the Environmental Protection Agency announced March 26.
The environmental cleanup envisioned by regulatory agencies will take as long as 30 years and cost as much as $100 million to complete, as efforts to isolate and then eradicate a plume of contamination that is spreading through the water table are undertaken.
Under the terms of the settlement with the U.S. Government, Goodrich is required to both step up the monitoring and surveying of the spreading contamination as well as take active measures to remove the perchlorate and trichloroethylene from the area near Casa Grande Drive and Locust Avenue.  Goodrich will fund the installation of further groundwater monitoring wells and the carrying out of testing and engineering surveys beginning this year. That evaluation is to last at least through 2014, according to the EPA. Data collected in that testing and evaluation period  will inform the EPA’s remediation strategy, which will be submitted for public review, probably in 2015, before it is implemented.
Goodrich will partially pay for the EPA-approved facilities to be used in the cleanup. Those facilities will not be in place and fully operational until 2017 or beyond, according to the EPA.
Goodrich’s $21.5 million cost projection is just an estimate and Goodrich is committed, according to the EPA, to carry on the cleanup to completion, no matter the eventual total cost.
The EPA Superfund site in Rialto was moved onto the National Priorities List in September 2009.   It is believed that five corporate entities – Pyro Spectaculars, Ken Thompson Inc., Chung Ming Wong, BF Goodrich, and Emhart Industries – were engaged in manufacturing activities that resulted in the accumulation and release of the perchlorate.
Perchlorate is a constituent in rocket fuel. In even minute quantities it is highly destructive to the  thyroid gland. Trichloroethylene, also known as TCE, is an industrial grade solvent that is damaging to the nervous system, lungs and liver.
B.F. Goodrich produced solid-fuel rocket propellant at the site from about 1957 to 1962.
The EPA announced in December that the Defense Department and nine companies with corporate legacies or connections, direct or indirect, to the manufacturing activity in north Rialto had signed onto an agreement to pay roughly $50 million toward cleaning the 160-acre site. Emhart Industries was part of the agreement, as was Pyro Spectaculars.
The cities of Rialto and Colton, along with the county of San Bernardino are all agencies that have joined with the EPA and the California Department of Toxic Control in pursuing monetary settlements to effectuate the cleanup.
San Bernardino County, ironically, is a party that has been accused of contributing to the contamination.
The county runs the Mid-Valley Landfill in north Rialto. Officials with the Rialto-based West Valley Water District and their lawyers have alleged that San Bernardino County razed and buried a hazardous waste-disposal facility at the site, an act those officials maintain was not only illegal but has worsened the contamination of the groundwater below Rialto.
Broco Inc. maintained a hazardous-waste disposal operation in northern Rialto from the mid-1960s until the late 1980s. The county purchased the property in 1994 and used it in the expansion of the Mid-Valley Sanitary Landfill.
According to attorney Barry Groveman, who represents the West Valley Water District, it appears the county simply knocked the hazardous waste facility down and spread the debris around before burying it. That action was against the law, Groveman said.
Groveman said the county was in violation of state hazardous waste handling regulations and the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Burying hazardous waste and storing it without a permit is illegal.
The county has expended over $6 million in legal fees since 2006 in seeking to persuade the courts and the regulatory agencies that it is not responsible for the contamination.

FAA Tower Cutbacks Wll Hit Ontario And SCLA

(March 29) ONTARIO—The air control towers at both Ontario Airport and Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville will be directly impacted by reductions imposed on the Federal Aviation Administration, according to federal officials.
The website for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shows that the control tower at Southern California Logistics Airport is one of 149 air traffic control facilities nationwide targeted for closure as the Federal Aviation Administration seeks to accommodate $637 million in reductions brought on by the federal sequestration spending cuts, which went into effect March 1.
The control tower at Ontario International is one of 72 such facilities where overnight shifts will be eliminated.
With sequestration in effect, SCLA, which is essentially run by the city of Victorville, and Ontario International, which is presently managed and operated by Los Angeles World Airports, a corporate division of the city of Los Angeles, will have to absorb the cost of maintaining their towers.  or, in the case of SCLA, shut it down, or in the case of Ontario Airport, discontinue night operations.
A press release from the FAA states, “To prepare for the possibility of a budget sequestration on March 1, 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration is making plans to reduce its expenditures by approximately $600 million for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013. Among the changes we are considering are furloughing the vast majority of our 47,000 employees for approximately one day per pay period; closing over 100 air traffic control facilities; eliminating the overnight shift at over 60 facilities; and reducing preventive maintenance and support for all air traffic control equipment. All of these changes will be finalized as to scope and details through collaborative discussions with our users and our unions. We will begin furloughs and start facility shut-downs in April.”
Southern California Logistics Airport (SCLA) was targeted for a tower shutdown because it averages under 150,000 total flight operations per year. The majority of flights into and out of SCLA are cargo related, although the airport also hosts corporate jets at its Million Air facility.
Eric Ray, the airport manager at Southern California Logistics Airport, this week told the Sentinel, “We are informed that the FAA will completely decommission the control tower effective May 5. At present, we are exploring the viability of operating the tower on our own at a reduced number of hours.”
Currently, Ray said, the tower is manned fourteen hours a day, and engages the services of five contract air traffic controllers. Those controllers, all of whom have FAA licenses, are employees with Serco Management Services. Serco provides those services under the terms of a $750,000 annual contract with the FAA. The continuation of the tower’s function at SCLA is critical, as controllers are needed to guide the landings of both manned and unmanned aircraft. SCLA is at the forefront of civilian airports accommodating unmanned planes.
SCLA also hosts  numerous charter flights ferrying servicemen into the High Desert. In 2012, approaching 50,000 military personnel flew into the airport, the majority of those being ones rotating into the Army National Training Center at Fort Irwin, which lacks an airstrip capable of accommodating airliners.
Ray said that last year, “We had 63,265 total flight operations, that is landings and takeoffs counted individually.”
While Southern California Logistics Airport is a separate legal entity with a budget and financial administration that is ledgered independently of the city of Victorville’s municipal operations, the Victorville City Council nonetheless serves as the SCLA Authority and oversees the airport.  “We endeavor to be economically self sufficient,” Ray said. “The FAA doing this [eliminating the control tower] is going to impair our ability to be so. We are looking at every reasonable option we have, including using the airport’s reserves. We are looking at all of our options. So far we have no solid commitments.”
At Ontario International Airport, the FAA previously gave indicaion that it would close  the control tower during the 10 p.m. to 6 p.m. shift beginning in April.Roughly 26, or 22 percent, of the 119 daily passenger flights at Ontario arrive or depart between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. More significantly, 48, or 64 percent, of the 75 average daily cargo flights at Ontario arrive and depart at night. While the FAA has floated the proposal of the graveyard shift shutdown, Ian Gregor, the public affairs manager for the FAA Pacific Division told the Sentinel, “We do not have concrete plans to end overnight shifts at any FAA towers.”
Los Angeles World Airports, which runs Ontario Airport, has  not yet put in place a plan to replace those displaced nighttime air traffic controllers in the event the FAA does eliminate them.
Nancy Castles, the director of public relations for Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) said LAWA, like the operators of nearly all of the airports being hit with the control tower hour cutbacks, has not taken up the gauntlet of replacing the air traffic controllers for several reasons. “Air traffic controllers are FAA employees who have to be trained and have FAA certification,” she said. LAWA moving to hire the displaced graveyard shift workers on its own so that they will remain in place in Ontario, “is not something I have heard,” Castles said.
She said airport operators are reluctant to do that because air traffic control has historically been the FAA’s province and legal liability attaches to the function of air traffic control. “[An airport hiring air traffic controllers] would not set a good precedent,” she said. “There are contractor liability issues. That is probably why no one is talking about it. The FAA as a governmental entity is protected. If we contracted and put people into the towers and something happened, we’d get sued.”
Castles said that it would be possible to have flights without a manned tower, but suggested those flights would most likely be cargo rather than passenger oriented.
“There are uncontrolled tower situations,” she said. “They are legal. The FAA permits that. I don’t know of any airlines with passengers going into an uncontrolled airport.  An airline’s  liability is significantly reduced when there is a control tower. If an airline chooses to land at a facility with an uncontrolled tower and there is an accident, the airline is going to take 100 percent of the blame and liability.”
The closure of the control tower at Ontario could have a major impact on United Parcel Service operations there. The UPS Southwest Regional Distribution Center is located at Ontario Airport. There have been conflicting signals sent by UPS corporate officers as to what the company’s reaction will be to the overnight tower shutdowns. A California-based company spokesman simply stated that UPS was monitoring the situation.  Statements emanating from the company headquarters in Sandy Springs, Georgia, however, made it sound as if the company is looking to relocate the southwest regional distribution center elsewhere.

Spencer Charged With Stealing $1.03 M From San Bernardino International

(March 29) Scot Spencer, the controversial aircraft industry executive who was entrusted with hundreds of millions of dollars by local officials to oversee what has so far proven to be an unsuccessful effort to transform former Norton Air Force Base into an international airport, was arrested earlier this week and charged with engaging in a conspiracy to steal $1.75 million in public funds, a gambit which ultimately netted him $1.03 million, investigators and prosecutors say.
The money prosecutors allege Spencer fraudulently obtained from the San Bernardino International Airport Authority is less than half of one percent of the money a joint powers authority set up to establish and operate the airport expended in the airport development effort. The expenditure of much of that money was done under Spencer’s direction in his capacity as the contract developer of the facility, which officials had hoped would by now attract multiple airlines to become a significant transportation hub.
But Spencer’s own interests at the airport, including several aviation service companies he owns, co-owns,  owned or co-owned, in many instances conflicted with the airport authority’s imperative of attracting to the aerodrome aviation related concerns. On more than one occasion Spencer used his status as the airport developer and his access to the authority administration and board to personally profit to the detriment of the airport’s operations and the taxpayers who were underwriting them.
His arrest and the charges filed against him are an outgrowth of a scathing report by the 2010-2011 San Bernardino County Grand Jury and evidence gathered during an FBI raid on the airport, the authority’s headquarters and several offices and hangars where Spencer’s companies were located, along with his Riverside home, on September 21, 2011.
The criminal complaint filed against Spencer by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office alleges Spencer conspired with Felice Luciano to effectuate a fraudulent $1.75 million claim by SBD Aircraft Services, one of Spencer’s companies, against the San Bernardino International Airport Authority in 2008 based on the falsified representation of the cancellation of an aircraft lease by the Democratic National Committee. Prosecutors, based upon an affidavit from the Democratic National Committee’s legal counsel obtained by district attorney’s investigator Schyler Beaty, maintain no such lease ever existed and that Spencer phonied up a fax to the Democratic National Committee to give credence to the claim there was such a lease.
The criminal complaint alleges that on March 26, 2010, Spencer and Luciano met at New York City’s Blue Water Grill, where Luciano allegedly signed an apparently backdated document purporting that SBD Airport Services would lease an aircraft to a company called Unique Aviation Properties, a company co-owned by Luciano, to provide the aircraft to the Democratic National Committee by August 23, 2008. At Spencer’s behest, according to prosecutors, Luciano signed the document on behalf of Unique Aviation and Spencer signed for SBD Aircraft Services. Prosecutors maintain that three days later, on March 29, 2010, Spencer produced a copy of the fraudulent lease agreement in response to a court order.
Spencer is charged with two counts of conspiracy, as is Luciano. Spencer is charged with two counts of perjury and one count of preparing false documentary evidence. Spencer was arrested on March 24 in Boca Raton, Florida. He waived extradition and was brought back to San Bernardino on March 28. There was no record of Luciano, whose domicile is in Tempe, Arizona, being arrested,  although there are indications he has been cooperating with the prosecution.
The background behind the alleged fraud would indicate that more than just $1.75 million in public funds were lost as a result of the alleged fraud Spencer perpetrated.
Spencer’s influence over operations at the airport, where several companies he owns were housed, was far reaching. In this way, Spencer’s pursuit of his own agenda conflicted with the corporate aims of other companies functioning at the airport, resulting in those companies departing.
One such company was Aeros Aeronautical Systems Corp., a blimp builder which did work on dirigibles and other lighter-than-air craft in Hangar 695, which it had leased at the airport.
In 2008, business was booming for Aeros, and the company was making its lease payments to the airport authority on time and in full. But that same year, Spencer would claim that two of his companies, SBD Aircraft Services and Norton Aviation Maintenance Services, entered into a subcontract with Luciano’s Unique Aviation, which, it was represented, had orders from the Democratic National Committee for the renovation and refurbishing of a then-35-year-old Boeing 727-227 for use in the Barack Obama presidential campaign. Spencer claimed he needed the hangar space Aeros was using to have SBD and Norton Aviation do the work. Despite the consideration that Aeros was a tenant paying top dollar for the space it was using and that it had secured in June 2008 two successive short term leases with 30-day termination notices to undertake tests on a dirigible, Spencer used his leverage with the airport authority to have the late Timothy Sabo, the legal counsel for the San Bernardino International Airport Authority (SBIAA), author a letter which then-airport authority general manager Don Rogers signed that essentially evicted Aeros.
In July 2008, before Aeros vacated the hangar, Spencer and the airport authority signed a lease for Hangar 695 at a rate less than half of what Aeros was paying for the space and despite the consideration that Aeros had yet to vacate it. When Aeros did not leave quickly enough to satisfy Spencer, who said he was prevented from completing $750,000 worth of repairs on the 727 to be used by the Democrats, he threatened SBIAA with legal action. Before the incident was over, Aeros, which had offered the promise of remaining as a longtime paying tenant, left in a huff, never to return. Spencer lodged a $1.75 million claim against SBIAA, which was eventually settled for $1.03 million, including the forgiving of a $155,000 balance on a previous loan, the extension of another $550,000 loan at 5 percent interest, and an ongoing $315,000 hangar rental subsidy.  It is now alleged that the Democratic National Committee had not commissioned the 1973 Boeing 727-227 from Unique Aviation and had no contract with Spencer or any of his companies.
Also in 2008, Spencer forced the exodus of another paying tenant, Virginia-based BaySys West, from San Bernardino International Airport. BaySys West had established an aircraft maintenance operation in San Bernardino employing 300, which Spencer apparently felt was in competition with Norton Aircraft Maintenance Systems, another company he owned. BaySys left in December 2008 under pressure from Spencer.
Spencer, who has long enjoyed extensive contacts throughout the aviation industry and was leasing two hangars at the airport in 2006, was hired by SBIAA in 2007 under a no-bid arrangement and entrusted with converting the former Norton Air Force Base into a true international airport. Yet there had been warning signs about Spencer’s reliability before he was selected to serve as contract developer at the airport.
In 1991, Spencer and financier Jeffrey Chodorow sought to utilize the remaining assets from Braniff International Airways to create Dallas-based Braniff International Airlines, Inc. Braniff Airways, which had been in operation since 1928, had faltered under its corporate successor, Braniff, Inc., which was created after the former company’s 1982 bankruptcy.  Spencer’s effort was unsuccessful and Spencer and Chodorow were both convicted of fraud for absconding with $14 million of the company’s funds, which they had partially hidden by making payments from Braniff to a shell company they created.  Spencer served a four-year prison term from 1995 until 1999 as a result of that conviction.
After paying his debt to society, Spencer took up where he had left off, becoming involved in the aircraft industry largely on the strength of his contacts with manufacturers, airlines, mechanics and maintenance companies.
In 2003 a charter airline Spencer owned set up shop at the airport and within two years, he was leasing from the San Bernardino International Airport Authority the lion’s share of property at the airport, where several aircraft servicing companies he was an owner or investor in were based. In 2007, without any competitive bidding, Spencer was chosen by the Airport Authority to serve as contract developer of the airport.  He was given a contract to oversee what was supposed to be a $38 million renovation of the airport’s passenger terminal and a $7 million development of its concourse. Spencer undertook that assignment amid confident predictions that upon completion of those projects, the airport would attract at least one and perhaps as many as a half dozen commercial passenger carriers.  In carrying out that project, Spencer used two corporations he owned, Norton Development Company, LLC and SBD Properties, LLC. The cost of the passenger terminal and the concourse escalated to $142 million and the airport has yet to host any commercial airlines, although corporate jets and other private pilots did land at the Million Air corporate aviation facility, for which Spencer was the franchisee, beginning in 2010.
The cost overruns for the terminal project, the failure of San Bernardino Airport to attract commercial airlines and Spencer’s relationship with former airport authority executive director Don Rogers, as well as T. Milford Harrison, another former airport authority executive director with whom Spencer has jointly formed at least three aviation companies, have raised eyebrows and brought SBIAA under increasingly critical scrutiny.
On June 30, 2011 the San Bernardino County 2010-11 Grand Jury delivered a report that questioned several elements of Spencer’s performance and that of Rogers, calling into question what was characterized as lax oversight of the airport’s operations and favorable treatment accorded Spencer with regard to leasing arrangements. That report referenced the leasing debacle with Aeros and further noted that an inherent conflict of interest pervaded the contractual arrangement Spencer had with the authority in that Spencer’s commission on the project through Norton Development Company and SBD Properties increased as expenditures on the passenger and concourse construction mounted.
Immediately upon the announcement of Spencer’s arrest, speculation about charges against others began. Foremost among those believed to be at risk of being dragged into the criminal case is Harrison, one of Spencer’s closest business associates. Harrison’s  business office was subject to the search warrant served by the FBI in September 2011. Rogers, who with the now-deceased Sabo enabled Spencer to evict Aeros on specious legal grounds, has  also been mentioned as a possible co-conspirator. The district attorney’s office, however, stopped short of suggesting that further arrests are contemplated, though one investigator said that the prosecution will consider forging a plea arrangement with Spencer in which  his cooperation with investigators would be a central element, potentially leading to the doorsteps of other airport officials.
The political fallout from the arrest could be significant. Both San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris and Fifth District Supervisor Josie Gonzales were actively involved, as board members of the airport authority, in hiring Spencer as contract developer in 2007. Spencer returned the favor with generous donations to their respective political campaigns and he allowed both to use the opulent and barely used terminal for fundraisers. Both Gonzales and Morris were among the last of the authority’s board members, which include representatives from the cities of Highland, Colton and Loma Linda as well as San Bernardino and the county, to continue to support keeping Spencer in place.
Speaking for both herself and Morris, Gonzales put out a prepared statement that said she now recognized that “the unscrupulous business practices of Scot Spencer have tainted much of the good work done at the airport.” She insisted that “From the moment the commission first learned of the investigation surrounding Mr. Spencer, the airport authority has done everything legally possible to distance itself from Mr. Spencer. We have terminated contracts with Spencer’s companies, hired new administrative leadership, and pursued civil restitution for any outstanding debt owed by Mr. Spencer to the airport. The airport authority has and will continue to cooperate with all law enforcement agencies. I applaud the district attorney’s commitment to seek financial restitution as part of his prosecution. He has my full cooperation and the county will ensure he has the resources needed to see this criminal case to its conclusion.”
Spencer’s presence at San Bernardino International Airport was supposed to have been terminated in October, after Federal Bankruptcy Judge Deborah Saltzman dismissed bankruptcy filings by  two of Spencer’s firms through which he was seeking to extend his tenancy there. Nevertheless, he has maintained his de facto presence at the airport by means of a shadow company he created, Pulsar Aviation Services, Inc. While the company is ostensibly operated by David Reed, Ted Reed and Tim Reed,  it is actually  owned by Spencer and Harrison, and uses the same address, location, tooling and aircraft equipment in its operations that was formerly utilized by SBAM Technics,  Norton Aircraft Maintenance Services and  Southern California Precision Aircraft, all of which were once or still are owned or co-owned by Spencer.

Judge Reinstates Graham As Hesperia Schools Police Chief

HESPERIA • Michael Graham has been reinstated as the Hesperia School District’s police chief in a ruling by Superior Court Judge John P Vander Feer handed down on March 22.
In February 2012, the Hesperia School Board voted 3-2 to fire Graham after months of protracted battling between Graham, as the chief of police, and then-district superintendent Mark McKinney.
McKinney had previously relieved Graham of his command, but Graham chose to have a public hearing over issues relating to his ouster. In testimony before the board, McKinney maintained Graham had been insubordinate.
Graham insisted that his firing was retaliatory and that he was punished for speaking out against reductions the police department was forced to sustain as well as for his efforts to get to the bottom of an alleged embezzlement of associated student body funds at Sultana High School in late 2009. McKinney said that diminishing revenues required that the district make cuts and the police division was a logical place to make those economies. He said that Graham, who hired on with the district police department in 2001 and was promoted to chief in April 2008, had proven intransigent in carrying out that policy.
Graham, a former San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy, a one-time deputy marshal with San Bernardino County, and a former security officer with the Air Force, maintained he had attempted to comply with McKinney’s instructions. Graham, however,  was undercut by statements he had previously uttered during his oftentimes public feud with McKinney, which on occasion included deprecating remarks about then-school board president Chris Bentley. Bill Holland, one of Grahams’s subordinates in the school district police department who was also a Hesperia city councilman who has since become mayor, sought to ameliorate Graham’s position, telling the board that it was he, rather than Graham, who had ridiculed as “absurd” the directives in one of McKinney’s memos to Graham calling upon him to reduce the activity and authority of the district police department.
Ultimately, a majority of the board did not find credible Graham’s insistence that he had attempted to comply with McKinney’s instructions and had not defied the superintendent. Bentley, joined by board members Eric Swanson and Niccole Childs, upheld McKinney’s firing of Graham. Board members Hardy Black and Anthony Riley voted to sustain Graham’s appeal.
Graham filed a wrongful termination suit against the Hesperia Unified School District in May.
Vander Feer ruled the school board’s accusation of insubordination on Graham’s part was not upheld by a preponderance of the evidence and he ordered Graham be “reinstated with full back pay and benefits.”
The district to which Graham will return has changed in certain respects. Bentley was voted out of office in November. Riley did not seek reelection. Cody Gregg and Ella Rogers have replaced Bentley and Riley. They formed a ruling alliance with Black and fired McKinney as superintendent in December.

Chino Hills Encroachment Lawsuit To Go To Trial With All Causes of Action Intact

(March 29) The encroachment  lawsuit filed by a Chino Hills couple against the city will go to trial with all of its causes of action intact, Superior Court Judge Joseph Brisco ruled on March 11.
Michael and Kimberly Denton sued the city in 2011 after the city’s code enforcement division informed them in 2010 that the furthest extension of their backyard was encroaching on city-owned open space and that they had to remove their pool and spa along with landscaping that was already extant when they purchased the home in 1999 from Gloria Vitagliano.
The Dentons, who live on Hunters Gate Circle, offered the city $10,000 for the property, but the city rejected that offer, instead saying it would provide them with a 15-year easement for the continued use of the property.  The Dentons then retained the firm of Gresham, Savage, Nolan and Tilden to sue the city.
The Dentons claim the city allowed the Vitagliano/Denton encroachment, which was conspicuous and open, to stand, and did nothing to interfere with Ms. Vitagliano’s or their occupation of the approximately 1,574 square feet of land for more than 15 years. Nor did the city act in a timely manner to prevent them from removing a wrought-iron fence and replacing it with a glass wall and block fence, the Dentons assert.
On March 13, Brisco denied the city’s motion to strike portions of the complaint and he also overruled a demurrer filed by the city.
“Demurrer is overruled as to city of Chino Hills as to all causes of action,” Brisco stated.
A demurrer is a request by a defendant for a determination that the facts alleged are insufficient to establish that the litigation should move forward.
Brisco also ruled that certain exhibits the city wants to enter as evidence would be accepted by the court, while others would not. He also granted the Dentons’ request for the acceptance of certain exhibits.
The Dentons had no knowledge of the encroachment, which the city was obliged to redress in a timely manner, according to the Denton’s lawyer, Theodore Stream.
The city, however, maintains that a document recorded at the time of the sale contains a disclosure statement from Vitagliano to the Dentons stating there is a “possible discrepancy regarding lot size/fence line.” The city maintains that this demonstrates the Dentons were on notice as to the possible encroachment at the time of the sale.
The city had previously sought to have the case dismissed and its lawyer, Elizabeth Calciano, indicated it will again seek to have a new cause of action alleged by the Dentons tossed out. In October, the city  requested that Superior Court Judge Ben Kayashima, who was then hearing the case, grant summary judgment. Kayashima rejected that petition, and ordered both parties to be ready for trial, which he set to commence on November 13. There were further delays, and Kayashima, who is a retired judge who was sitting on assignment, had his position as a judge terminated as a result of budget cuts. Brisco called for the case to go to trial beginning on September 30. Calciano said she will bring a motion before Brisco next month to have him throw out a recent amendment to the Dentons’ complaint that cites issues with regard to the covenants, conditions and requirements attending the sale of the property.
The case is of some moment in upscale Chino Hills, since it will conceivably impact other property owners in the city who are alleged to have encroached on open space owned by the city.

City of Needles To Borrow Against CRMC Purchase Escrow Account

(March 29) To meet the immediate operational and payroll deficits at Colorado River Medical Center, the city of Needles will borrow up to $400,000 put into an escrow account by Community Health Care Partners.
The city has entered into a deal to sell the hospital to Community Health Care Partners, Inc., pursuant to arrangements being worked out for the full transfer of all of the property upon which the hospital is located to that buyer. The Bureau of Land Management, which sold the property to the city decades ago so the hospital could be developed, put a revisionary clause into the terms of that original sale so that the property must revert to the Bureau if the land is ever used for a purpose it does not deem beneficial to the public. The Bureau has not yet signed off on that land transfer to Community Health Care Partners, which is owned by Bing Lum.
Community Healthcare Partners has an agreement to purchase the hospital for $2.577 million. As part of a deal accepted by the city council on February 26, a long-term escrow process for the hospital’s purchase, an interim lease, a management agreement and a leaseback agreement was set up whereby Community Healthcare Partners put $2.2 million into an escrow account and effective March 1 Community Healthcare Partners, Inc. became interim manager of Colorado River Medical Center. According to the deal forged between the city and Community Healthcare Partners, once the Bureau of Land Management gives final approval of the transfer, Community Health Care Partners will pay the city another $377,000 to complete the purchase of the hospital and the land it sits upon in full. The second closing deadline has been set for no later than February 22, 2015.
At a special joint meeting with the Needles City Council March 12, the Needles Hospital Board of Trustees approved a revolving loan and security agreement with Community Healthcare Partners. Under that arrangement, the city will be able to tap into as much as $400,000 sitting in the escrow account to pay for current and past due hospital-related operating and payroll bills and has up to 180 days to repay the loan from accounts receivable. The hospital had unpaid bills of $989,554.73 as of early this month. Previously, to ensure that payroll was met on March 9, the city had loaned the hospital $80,000.
Lum said he was amenable to the loan being made as long as it is repaid within the 180-day time frame.
City attorney John Pinkney, who counseled against advancing money out of the escrow account, nevertheless negotiated the terms of the loan and vouched for its legality. There is a security agreement with regard to the loan, extending to the possibility that the hospital purchase is not ultimately consummated whereby the full amount of the money in escrow has to be returned to Community Health Care Partners.
Board member Lana Shaw abstained in the vote to take the loan, which was approved by all other board members. The board also designated having city manager David Brownlee and the city’s in-house accountant, Sylvia Miledi, monitor the hospital’s finances from here on out.