Two Yucca Valley Town Council Members Targeted In Recall Effort

(May 3) YUCCA VALLEY—Declaring they are intent on “taking back our town,” a group of Yucca Valley residents have launched a recall effort targeting town councilmen George Huntington and Robert Lombardo. Huntington was served with a notice of intent to recall  early on April 30 and petitioners delivered papers to Lombardo at that evening’s town council meeting.
Dissatisfaction with Town Hall among a growing contingent of Yucca Valley residents has been seething for some time. This was exacerbated most recently when the council endorsed town manager Mark Nuaimi’s  17 percent reduction in the town’s workforce, from 41 to 34 full time employees, including laying off the town’s associate planner and Yucca Valley’s two recreation coordinators and forcing the retirements of the town clerk, community services director,  museum supervisor, a museum assistant, an animal shelter administrative assistant as well as a code compliance technician while moving to defund the operation of the only public swimming pool in town, the museum, the Fourth of July fireworks celebration and concerts in the park. Nuaimi justified the cost cutting moves as action that  will save $300,000 in the town’s upcoming fiscal year as the retirement incentives are cashed out, and $725,000 per year thereafter.
But Nuaimi’s economies came just two months after the town council conferred upon him a raise and guaranteed contract with the city through 2016 that pushed his total compensation package to $300,840 by 2015. At present he is receiving $190,000 per year in base salary and $103,339 in deferred compensation and benefits per year.
This has not sat well with many residents in the desert city of 20,700 in which the mean household income is $38,500 per year. According to their office-filing documents, four of the council’s five members live in Sky Harbor, the town’s most affluent residential neighborhood. There is a perception that the council, which of late is dominated by the four- member Sky Harbor ruling coalition, is out of touch with much of the community.
The grounds cited in the intent to recall notices for Huntington and Lombardo referenced the three-year extension of Nuaimi’s contract at nearly $300,000 annually and further cited their acceptance of  a cost on the town’s new animal shelter without having funding available, utilizing $100,000 in public money to promote the failed Measure U tax measure and soliciting money for the Measure U campaign from town vendors and contractors; persisting in seeking another tax measure in the aftermath of Measure U’s failure; and electing to appoint council members in the aftermath of resignations as opposed to holding elections to fill those vacancies.
Petitioners circulating the petitions for recall must obtain the valid signatures of 25 percent of the city’s registered voters within 90 days to qualify the recall question for the ballot. The petitions presented to the voters must contain the grounds upon which the recall is being sought and must accommodate a rebuttal statement of  up to 200 words if the  recall target provides one.
In his initial response, Huntington noted that he has been “a citizen of this community for over 39 years, continually serving in some capacity of town government for 19 of those years. I find it extremely distressing that a group has come forward with a recall effort when the town and this council are doing everything in its power to continue services and programs during these stressful economic times. I consider this intent to circulate a recall petition potentially expensive, disruptive and very disheartening.”
Huntington intimated that seeking his ouster was counterproductive, since he is well qualified to serve as a town councilman. “I bring my education and life experiences to the council’s decision-making processes to help make Yucca Valley a better place to live,” he said.
At press time, Lombardo had not yet circulated his response.

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