Rialto Superintendent Put On Leave While District Accountant’s Thefts Are Probed

The Rialto Unified School Board this week placed Rialto Unified Superintendent Harold Cebrun and his chief of staff on administrative leave, reportedly as a consequence of investigators confirming that a personal relationship existed between Cebrun and the former district employee who has been charged with embezzlement from the district.
On August 7, Judy Oakes, an accountant with the Rialto Unified School District’s nutrition department since 1993, was arrested by the Rialto Police Department on suspicion of embezzlement, burglary and grand theft. She was charged by the district attorney’s office with burglary, Penal Code Section 459, on August 12, according to the Superior Court’s website. The Rialto Police Department maintains Oakes was recorded on video putting school lunch money into her bra.
The district placed Oakes on administrative leave following her arrest. On August 8, she tendered her resignation.
Oakes, 48 of San Bernardino, was able to post $50,000 bail within three hours after her arrest and was released.
Within a very short time after her arrest, allegations surfaced that Oakes, the widow of Jack Oakes, a former principal of Ramona-Allesandro Elementary School in San Bernardino, had a close personal relationship with Cebrun. At a specially-scheduled board meeting on August 14, Cebrun denied any wrongdoing without specifically disavowing his relationship with the accused.
“I’ve served this district with honor and integrity for the past four-and-a-half years,” he said. “This crime is an isolated incident of one person… not involving me.”
The school board hired Rancho Cucamonga-based Stewart Investigative Services, Inc., to carry out an investigation of the matter and undertook an audit of the district’s nutrition services department, an effort that paralleled the investigations of the Rialto Police Department, the San Bernardino County District Attorney and the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools.
As Stewart Investigative Services’ inquiry into the matter progressed, information developed that convinced the school board of the 26,408-enrollment district that it would be prudent to take steps that would ensure that Cebrun and his chief of staff, James Wallace, who also serves as the district’s assistant superintendent of student services, are not in a position to interfere with the ongoing investigations and do not have access to any documentation investigators are seeking.
It is anticipated that Stewart Investigative Services will deliver a report on the matter to the school board on September 25.
The board tapped associate superintendent of business services Mohammad Z. Islam to temporarily replace Cebrun and serve in the role of acting superintendent.
Cebrun, who has been away from the district on bereavement leave, reiterated his earlier statement, insisting “I had nothing to do with this and had no knowledge of any criminal activity. I have not violated any district policy.”

County Transfers Title On Adelanto Detention Facilty To The State

(September 13) The county of San Bernardino, which has expended $145 million and counting of money available to it on post-acquisition improvements  to the Adelanto Detention Center Project, has transferred title to the facility, for which it paid more than $31 million in 2005, to the state of California.
The county will now be obliged to lease the prison back from the state so it can be utilized by the sheriff’s department as its primary prisoner holding facility.
In April 2005, the county purchased what was then a 500-bed facility from the Moreland Family Trust for $31.2 million. In 2010, the county  committed $120 million toward the expansion of the facility by another 1,368 jail beds, choosing Bellevue, Washington-based Lydig Construction, Inc. as the contractor, under what was originally slated as a not-to-exceed construction cost of $90,951,937. Since that time, the construction cost has escalated by more than $26 million to $118,310,972.
The Public Safety and Offender Rehabilitation Services Act of 2007, also known and referred to as AB 900, became law on May 3, 2007. In March 2008 the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved making an application to the Corrections Standards Authority of the State of California for AB 900 funding in the amount of $100,000,000 to construct the aforementioned 1,368 additional  beds at the Adelanto Detention Center. The $100 million grant was conceptually approved by the state. On July 13, 2010, the county board of supervisors accepted the terms dictated under AB 900 for the county to receive the $100 million in funding by approving a so-called project delivery and construction agreement, which established the various obligations of the county, the State Public Works Board, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and the Board of State and Community Corrections with regard to the project, including general terms and termination, cost sharing, scope, cost, schedule, bidding and construction, post project completion and records retention.
The AB 900 jail construction funds are being initially administered by the State Public Works Board and funded by interim loans advanced by the Pooled Money Investment Board and/or the state of California’s general fund.
According to Carl Alban, the director of the county architecture & engineering department, “The State Public Works Board intends to refinance its interim loan obligations through the issuance of lease-revenue bonds. This financing mechanism requires the State Public Works Board, on behalf of the state of California, to hold ownership interest of the jail facilities subject to the bonds being sold and paid off (estimated at 30 years). The State Public Works Board will lease the jail facilities to Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, who will in turn sublease the jail facilities to the county for its use and operation in the care and custody of county inmates. Once the bonds are paid in full by the state, ownership of the facility would be vested in the county. The county has committed to staff and operate the project in accordance with state guidelines within 90 days of construction completion and agreed to operate and maintain the facilities until the bonds are repaid.”

VVC Board Names Peter Allan As Interim Superintendent/President

(September 13) VICTORVILLE—In a unanimous vote this week, the Victor Valley College Board of Trustees appointed former Apple Valley Mayor Peter Allen to serve as the interim superintendent/president of the community college.
With an October 15 accreditation report deadline looming, Allan emerged as a compromise candidate four months after the board came to a collective agreement not to renew Dr. Christian O’Hearn’s contract as superintendent earlier this year.
Allan is more than conversant with the college’s accreditation challenges. A retired faculty member and administrator at Victor Valley College, he has been the acting president/superintendent since shortly after O’Hearn’s departure in May.
Allan has indicated that he is willing to remain in the capacity of interim superintendent, but does not want to commit to holding the position permanently.
The motion to nominate Allan was made by Brandon Wood, who was brought in to succeed Michael Krause on the college board in August. Krause resigned in May and the board was unable to come to a consensus for two months with regard to his replacement, with board members Dennis Henderson and John Pinkerton amenable to allowing former board member Joe Range to fill Krause’s spot and board members Joe Brady and Lorrie Denson wanting a more exhaustive search.
Wood, the president of the High Desert Bar Association Board, appears to have had a calming and stabilizing impact upon the board.
The board and Allan must now turn their focus to the accreditation issue, which has lain unresolved since 2011. At that time the Commission for Community and Junior Colleges placed Victor Valley College on probation for failing to comply with several standards. The college  exceeded the two years provided it to come into compliance and commission officials have expressed impatience with the college for its lack of progress. If the school loses accreditation, it will no longer be able to confer upon its graduates degrees and class credits at the college will not be transferable to other universities

SBC’s 24 Cities’ Registration Tilts Split Evenly Between Democrats & GOP

(September 6) At present, half of San Bernardino County’s cities lean Republican and half lean toward the Democratic Party, the Sentinel’s examination of political registration data available from the registrar of voters shows.
Throughout the 1990s and well into the 2000s, political registration in San Bernardino County favored the Party of Lincoln. But four years ago, Democrats eclipsed the GOP in terms of sheer numbers of registered voters throughout the county. Today, with a total of 857,210 registered voters, 333,162, or 38.86 percent are registered as Democrats.  300,361, or 35.03 percent are registered Republicans.
In two of the county’s five supervisorial districts, the Republicans yet hold an edge in voter registration. The Democrats have greater numbers in the other three districts.
In the First Supervisorial District, there are a total of 167,558 voters. 57,364, or 34.22 percent, are  Democrats and  64,313, or 38.27 percent, are Republicans.
In the Second Supervisorial District, there are 192,217 total voters, 72,881 or 37.91 percent of whom are Democrats and  70,432 or 36.63 percent of whom are Republicans.
In the Third Supervisorial District, there are 189,077 total voters, with  63,814 or 33.75 registered as  Democrats and 75,844 or 40.11 registered as Republicans.
In the Fourth Supervisorial District, there are 158,800 total registered voters, of whom 65,788 or 41.42 percent are Democrats and 52,007 or 32.75 percent are Republicans.
In the Fifth Supervisorial District 149,558 voters are registered.  73,315 or 49.02 percent are affiliated with the Democratic Party and 37,765 or 24.95 are Republicans.
The county has 24 incorporated cities. Twelve of those have more voters who identify themselves as Democrats than voters registered as Republicans. In the other twelve cities, there are more Republicans than Democrats. Not surprisingly, in the county’s more affluent cities – Chino Hills, Rancho Cucamonga, Upland, Redlands and Big Bear – the Republicans are in ascendency. In most of the county’s economically challenged cities such as San Bernardino, Adelanto, Barstow, Needles, Rialto and Colton, the Democrats predominate. One exception is Hesperia, which despite a core of impoverished residents, yet leans slightly in favor of the GOP.
In Adelanto, which boasts 9,038 total registered voters, 4,384, or 48.5 percent, are Democrats.  1,915 or 21.19 percent are Republicans.
Of Apple Valley’s 36,323 total registered voters, 10,380 or 28.57 percent are registered Democrats and  16,297 or 44.86 percent are  Republicans.
In Barstow, where 8,452 voters are registered, 3,468 or 41.03 percent are Democrats and 2,435 or 28.81 percent are Republicans.
In Big Bear, of its 2,785 total voters, 667 or 23.95 percent are Democrats and 1,443 or 52 percent are  Republicans. Big Bear is the only city in the county where more than half of the voters are affiliated with the GOP.
Chino’s 31,762 total voters include 12,465 or 39.24 percent who are registered Democrats and 11,640 or 36.64 percent who are Republicans.
In Chino Hills 11,918 or 31.63 percent of its 37,678 total voters are registered as Democrats. 15,307 or 40.62 percent identify themselves as being members of the Party of Lincoln.
In Colton, 19,968 are registered to vote.  9,986 or 50.01 percent are registered Democrats. 4,993 or 25 percent are Republicans. Colton is one of two county cities in which Democrats account for more than half of the voters.
Of Fontana’s 72,747 voters, 35,130 or 48.29 percent are Democrats and 17,860 or 24.55 percent are Republicans.
In Grand Terrace, of its 6,585 total voters, 2,426, or 36.84 percent, are Democrats and 2,572, or 39.06 percent, are Republicans.
In Hesperia, 12,508 or 34.28 percent of its 36,483 total voters are Democrats. 13,823 or 37.89 percent are Republicans.
In Highland, where 22,996 are registered to vote, 8,779 or 38.176 percent are Democrats and 8,570 or 37.267 percent are Republicans. Highland is the city in the county where Democratic  vs. Republican registration is most evenly matched.
Of the 10,430 total voters in Loma Linda, 3,416 or 32.75 percent identify themselves as Democrats and 3,748 or 35.93 are registered as Republicans.
In Montclair approaching half of its 12,776 total voters, 6,387 or 49.99 percent, define themselves as Democrats and 2,855 or 22.34 percent are declared Republicans.
Of Needles’   1,903 voters,  768 or 40.35 percent are Democrats and 546 or 28.69 percent are  Republicans.
In Ontario 27,667 or 46.77 percent of its 59,153 total voters are Democrats and 16,677 or 28.19 percent are Republicans.
In Rancho Cucamonga, more voters –  86,906 – are registered than in any other city in the county.   30,856 or 35.5 percent are registered as Democrats. 34,233 or 39.39 percent are registered Republicans.
In Redlands, among its 38,299 total voters are 12,930 Democrats, accounting for 33.76 of the electorate. 16,201 or 42.3 percent of the city’s voters are Republicans.
In Rialto well over half of the city’s 38,729 voters – 20,068 or 51.81 percent – are Democrats.  9,075 or 23.43 percent are Republicans.
In San Bernardino there are 77,839 registered to vote with 35,669 or 45.82 percent identified as Democrats and 22,214 or 28.54 percent as Republicans.
Twentynine Palms has  5,322 total voters, of whom  1,464 or 27.51 percent are Democrats and 2,174 or 40.85 percent are Republicans.
In Upland, its 37,868 voters include 13,335 or 35.21 percent Democrats and 15,387 or 40.63 percent Republicans.
Victorville’s 42,511 voters number 18,478 or 43.46 percent Democrats and 12,367 or 29.09 percent Republicans.
In Yucaipa, of its 27,367 total voters, 7,540 or 27.55 percent are Democrats and 13,294 or 48.57 percent are Republicans.
In Yucca Valley, which hosts 9,693 voters, the town counts  2,645 or 27.28 percent registered Democrats and 4,264 or 43.99 percent  Republicans.
There are party affiliations in San Beranrdino County other than Republican and Democrat, including American Independent, Americans Elect, Green, Libertarian and Peace and Freedom. Voters can also register without party affiliation. In San Bernardino County overall, 180,721 voters or 21.08 percent have no party affiliation.

Chino Hills Wants To Let Encroachers Buy Land

With Mike and Kim Denton’s lawsuit against the city of Chino Hills over encroachment issues scheduled for trial on September 30, city officials have redoubled earlier efforts to settle as many of the 237 other matters involving either lot line disputes between the city and residents or longstanding encroachments onto public open space by the city’s homeowners.
Previous efforts to resolve the issue  with various homeowners have failed. The matter has come about as a consequence of hundreds – the city has quantified the number at 238 – of homeowners building on or placing improvements in various forms onto property beyond their respective property lines,  including landscaping, walls, saunas, pools , gazebos and swing sets.
In the case of the Dentons, that matter was forced to a point of crisis when the  couple, who purchased their  home on Hunters Gate Circle in 1999 from Gloria Vitagliano, were informed by the city 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. The Dentons 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 and sued 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.
After attempts by the city to have the case dismissed outright, assistant city attorney Elizabeth Calciano made a motion to strike portions of the complaint. On March 11, Superior Court Judge Joseph Brisco ruled the case will go to trial September 30 with all of its causes of action intact. Last month, the Dentons made a motion for summary judgment, but Brisco rejected that, ruling that triable issues of material fact exist with respect to the correct zoning of the property, whether Vitagliano and by extension the Dentons violated local ordinances and zoning laws which resulted in a failure to comply with the covenants, codes and restrictions on the property, whether the Dentons can obtain what they are seeking through a lot line adjustment and whether certain previous statements made by either the city or the Dentons contradict the positions they are now taking in regard to the lawsuit.
The Dentons had no knowledge of the encroachment, which the city was obliged to redress in a timely manner, according to the Dentons’ 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 is now seeking a “global” solution, having floated the viability of agreeing to sell most of the disputed encroached-upon properties to homeowners citywide. On July 9, the city council discussed just such an approach.
In 2010, the city had undertaken to inform encroaching property owners about the issue. The Dentons were among those so informed and that effort triggered the pending lawsuit.  The city’s approach in resolving the issue at that time was hampered by the suggestion that encroaching property owners would be “fined” as a consequence of their occupation of property to which they did not have title.  A far more comprehensive notification effort was made this summer, with 238 property owners identified as having encroached onto city-owned open space given notices to that effect. Those notices, sent from the city’s code enforcement division, went out to the offending property owners on July 31. Those notices informed the residents of the city’s contemplated open space sales program.
A major issue is the price residents would be willing to pay and the amount the city is willing to accept for the property in question.
According to a city staff report, there is interest on the part of some of the encroaching residents to cure the dispute, including making those land purchases. Others told by the city that they have encroached on city property have taken the position that they are not occupying public open space at all. Some of the homeowners receiving notices were unaware of the issue. Others had been previously notified. Still others who had not been previously notified were cognizant that the issue existed but have been noncommittal in their response.
Tentatively, the city has indicated it envisions being paid $6 to $17 per square foot to relinquish title to the encroached upon open space.
Of those the city maintains have encroached, some simply inherited the encroachment from previous owners. In some cases, the encroachments preexisted the city’s incorporation in 1991. In some cases, the owners themselves expanded their property lines or put in landscaping onto property the city claims is public open space.
The city has indicated it does not want to assess blame or fault with regard to the encroachments but wants simply to move ahead with solving the issue by means of a formalized sale of the encroached-upon property in question to those willing to make the purchases.

SEC Charges Faulty As Victorville Met Loan Value Standards, Lawyers Say

(September 6) VICTORVILLE—The Securities and Exchange Commission’s assertions that the city of Victorville, the Southern California Logistics Airport Authority and Victorville Assistant City Manager Keith Metzler intentionally defrauded investors who purchased airport bonds cannot be sustained by the facts and documents relating to those bond sales, attorneys representing the city maintained in court papers filed last week.
On April 29, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) alleged that fraud was committed by the city, the airport authority and Metzler, who fills the dual roles of assistant city manager and executive director of the airport authority, when misrepresentations were made to the purchasers of bonds, the proceeds from which were  intended to assist in the development of Southern California Logistics Airport,  specifically with regard to bonds issued in April 2008.
The airport authority was formed by the city of Victorville to facilitate the conversion of the former George Air Force Base, which was shuttered by the Department of Defense in 1992, into a civilian airport. SCLAA, which has as its board of directors all five members of the Victorville City Council, issued bonds which were sold to investors to generate revenue to be used in making the base’s civilian use conversion.
Fundamental to the SEC complaint is the allegation that the defendants made misrepresentations with regard to the value of four airport hangars that Victorville referenced in its official statement for an April 2008 bond offering. The value of all four hangars was listed at $65 million. The county assessor later valued the hangars at $27.7 million. The SEC alleges that the authority used the inflated estimated values to mislead the investors.
Two separate responses to the SEC complaint  were filed on August 30, one from attorneys with the law firm of Arent Fox, which represents Victorville and the airport authority and another from the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, representing Metzler.
Arent Fox maintained that even if the hangar valuations were overstated, they were not material misrepresentations by which the financing of the bonds in terms of the city’s and airport authority’s ability to continue to make payments to the bondholders was threatened.
“Unfortunately for the SEC, the conclusions in the complaint are inconsistent with the mathematical analysis that the SEC had to perform to bring the action in the first instance,” the reply brief on behalf of the city and the airport authority states. “As a matter of mathematical fact, regardless of whether the alleged misstated hangar value is used ($65 million), or whether the alleged correct hangar value is used ($27.7 million), the debt service ratio remains above 1.25 in either case.”
The SEC stated in its complaint that the market required the 1.25 debt service ratio, and that the issuing agency was required to meet such a debt service burden on an annual basis throughout the life of the bonds. “The credit rating agencies focused on the debt service ratio, and a ratio below 1.25 would have affected the credit quality of the April 2008 Bonds,” the SEC complaint states. Had the quality of the bonds been downgraded, the issuing agency, under the standards dictated by the market, would have needed to pay bondholders a higher yield.
The team of defense attorneys representing the city and the airport authority seized upon the standard the SEC cited in its complaint in constructing a legal shield for their clients.  “[T]he SEC’s allegations — taken on their own terms and accepted as true — do not rise to the level of alleged materiality necessary to survive a motion to dismiss,” the defense team, consisting of Terree Bowers, Jerrold Abeles and Adam Bentley, wrote.
The SEC is improperly seeking to delay a consideration of the materiality of the alleged misrepresentation, Bowers, Abeles and Bentley maintain. “[T]he SEC’s opposition attempts to shift the battleground, arguing that the court ‘need not’ consider it now, or that the basic arithmetic supporting it requires a ‘complicated calculus’ of ‘19 pages of complex math,’ as if to suggest that it is too hard to understand,” the defense brief states. “Both of these premises are false. The court should—indeed, it must—decide whether the facts alleged by the SEC satisfy its burden to demonstrate materiality in the complaint. And it must consider the calculations, because that is the only way to determine whether the SEC’s allegations indeed state a claim. In short, the court is both legally and intellectually capable of determining whether the SEC’s complaint adequately alleges materiality. The determination is possible and proper at this stage in the case.”
According to those attorneys, the inability of the SEC to sustain that material misrepresentations were made to the bond buyers undermines the entire case against the city and the authority.
Metzler is represented by the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. In a brief also filed on August 30, three of that firm’s attorneys, James Kramer, Kevin Askew and Judy Kwan, maintain that   the SEC “does not have a viable aiding and abetting claim against Keith Metzler.”
Metzler’s response states that the SEC cannot prove its allegations of securities fraud, “specifically that Mr. Metzler had actual knowledge that the figures in the April 2008 official statement relied on outdated valuations of the hangars underlying the bond issuance.”
Also charged in the SEC’s April complaint were  Kinsell, Newcomb & DeDios Inc., the underwriter for the bond offerings, that company’s owner, Jeffrey Kinsell, and Kinsell, Newcomb and DeDios investment banker Janees Williams.
The SEC complaint consists of nine claims for relief and one prayer for disgorgement. The authority is named in the first two claims for relief. Kinsell, Newcomb and DeDios (KND) is named in the third, fourth and eighth claims for relief. KND and Jeffrey Kinsell are named in the fifth and sixth claims for relief. Victorville, Jeffrey Kinsell, Williams and Metzler are named in the seventh claim for relief.  Jeffrey Kinsell and Williams are named in the ninth claim for relief.
In the prayer for disgorgement, which is a request for restitution of ill-gotten profits from security law violators, all the parties are named.
Metzler’s attorneys take issue with his having been included in the case altogether. They imply in their brief that Kinsell, Newcomb and DeDios, and not their client, were responsible for any misstatements or misrepresentations about the value of the hangars.
According to Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, “the SEC itself alleges that Mr. Metzler provided the correct hangar valuation information, twice, to KND [Kinsell, Newcomb and DeDios]  In light of this admitted fact, the SEC’s theory of recklessness boils down to the notion that Mr. Metzler engaged in ‘an extreme departure from the standards of ordinary care’ by, in essence, not assuming that KND ignored the updated valuation and failed to pass it along to the [bond marketing] consultant and by not taking it upon himself to check KND’s, and the consultant’s, math. This is not a plausible theory of recklessness, and the SEC points to no case on such facts that says it is. The SEC now tries to distance itself from its own allegations by claiming that it is ‘meaningless’ that Mr. Metzler, on two separate occasions before the April 2008 bond issuance, provided accurate updated hangar values to KND. According to the SEC, Mr. Metzler ‘did not provide this information to the consultant, which he knew needed that information to calculate the important tax increment.’ But in attempting to downplay the importance of its own admissions that Mr. Metzler provided the updated values to KND (and in attempting to overstate the role of the consultant), the SEC ignores its own allegation that ‘KND, as the underwriter, had ultimate authority over the portions of the official statements it prepared, including the false and misleading debt service schedule in the April 2008 official statement.”
The briefs filed on August 30 are part of the legal skirmishing preceding a September 16 hearing before Judge John A. Kronstadt in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Knonstadt is due at that time to rule on motions filed by defense attorneys in June to dismiss the first, second, and seventh claims for relief in the SEC’s April 29 lawsuit, all of which pertain to  the allegations that the values of the four SCLA hangars were overstated. Those briefs came in response to the SEC’s responses to the motions for dismissal.

Group Qualifies Recall Vote Vs.Three San Bernardino Officials

The effort which originally targeted nine of San Bernardino’s elected officials for removal from office  has succeeded in qualifying recall questions against three of those on the November 5 ballot.
San Bernardino Residents For Responsible Government in April declared that they were gunning for the political heads of mayor Patrick Morris, city attorney Jim Penman and council members Wendy McCammack, Fred Shorrett, Rikki Van Johnson, John Valdivia, Virginia Marquez, Robert Jenkins, and Chas Kelley. The group said it was motivated by the city’s filing for bankruptcy protection last summer.
Eventually, the group called an end to its effort against Morris, who is not seeking reelection in November and will leave office next March. It also discontinued the campaigns against Jenkins, Marquez and Shorrett, who must seek reelection in November to remain in office past March. It dropped the campaign against Van Johnson as well. It did proceed with the call to let voters decide on removing Kelley, Valdivia, McCammack and Penman.
While city clerk Gigi Hanna originally ruled that the group had failed to meet technical requirements to have the recall petitions against McCammack, Kelley and Penman considered, on August 22 Judge David Cohn ruled that Hanna had to accept the recall petitions and the signatures endorsing them and forward them to the registrar of voters to be tallied to see if the required number of voters had signed onto the effort to force the recall election to take place. Once the recall petitions and signatures relating to Penman, McCammack, Kelley and Valdivia were tallied by the registrar of voters, it was determined that sufficient signatures – 15 percent of the city’s registered voters citywide – had been gathered to place Penman on the ballot as a recall candidate and sufficient signatures –  25 percent of the voters in their respective wards – to place McCammack and Valdivia on the ballot as recall candidates.  Signature gatherers, however, fell short in the effort to qualify a recall question against Kelley.
Scott Beard, the founder of San Bernardino Residents For Responsible Government, said that he and those who had undertaken the recall campaign were “very pleased that San Bernardino voters will have the opportunity to replace a full seven of the elected officials who are largely responsible for the dismal shape the city is in today.”
Of note, McCammack, Kelley and Van Johnson are among nine candidates to replace Morris as mayor.  McCammack’s mayoral campaign continues, despite the vote to remove her from the council.

Second Plea Bargain Resolution In Falsified POST Training Class Certification Case

(September 6) The former San Bernardino County sheriff’s employee at the center of the training fraud case that rocked the department when charges were filed against several midlevel and high ranking members of the department two-and-a-half years ago accepted a plea agreement last week.
Angela Gray, a custody specialist and the wife of a former sheriff’s captain, Bart Gray, who was also charged in the training fraud case and against whom charges are yet standing, entered a plea to a reduced misdemeanor charge in the case on August 28. Two felony charges of grand theft and conspiracy she had previously faced were dismissed. Under the terms of the plea agreement, she will not be required to serve jail time.
Angela Gray entered a guilty plea to a single misdemeanor charge of aiding in a crime and was sentenced to 16 months probation and ordered to pay a $1,885 fine.
In September 2009, insinuations of fraud, theft by false pretenses and unjust enrichment cropped up against Hobart Gray, more commonly known as Bart Gray, who was the commander of the Yucaipa sheriff’s station, and approximately 25 other members of the department. Eighteen months later, in March 2011 indictments were handed down naming former assistant sheriff Mike Stodelle; captain Bart Gray; lieutenant William Maddox; lieutenant Russell Wilke; detective David Pichotta; Angela Gray, an unsworn custody specialist; and Sally Ann Christian, an unsworn training specialist. The charges related to participating in the falsification of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification documents and/or personally benefiting from those falsifications, fraud, grand theft and perjury.
According to the indictment, Angela Gray, who worked at the department’s Glen Helen North Training Facility, in conjunction with Sally Ann  Christian, was said to have facilitated a situation in which sheriff’s personnel would sign up for POST classes but never attend them. Angela Gray would sign them off as having attended a particular class, usually held at the sheriff’s academy in Devore  under the accreditation of San Bernardino Valley College, then submit the paperwork through the required channels and obtain certificates of completion. Those who signed up for class would either get overtime for attending or were allowed to attend classes on workdays, receiving in turn regular or overtime pay. Many of those who signed up attended only a single class, or in other cases, no classes whatsoever, according to the district attorney’s office.
The never-completed coursework included instruction on verbal judo, advanced subjects contact, officer survival, child abuse, hate and bias crimes, basic dispatch, advanced dispatch, supervisory skills, basic traffic collision, gang awareness, driving under the influence, and civil liabilities. Sworn officers with the department were either required to get periodic retraining in law enforcement skills or were eligible to receive pay increases with the completion of further training. The coursework was supposed to be done in compliance with the state’s POST criteria, that is, Police Officers Standard and Training guidelines, which are set by the state.
More than a year after word leaked out that some of the department’s officers were “cutting corners” on training and retraining requirements, a special criminal grand jury was impaneled in November 2010 to hear testimony in the case. It was that grand jury, which is separate from the civil grand jury that traditionally monitors the function of San Bernardino County government, which heard testimony from witnesses.
By obtaining POST certification, officers qualify for raises or enhanced duty and/or promotions.
Prosecutors eventually dropped the cases against Wilke and Maddox after information surfaced pointing to their innocence. Wilke remains employed by the department. Maddox is retired and is contemplating legal action to further clear his name. Pichotta entered into a plea arrangement by which the felony perjury and grand theft charges that had been lodged against him were reduced to a single misdemeanor charge of grand theft.
The case remains active against Bart Gray, Stodelle and Christian. Thus, the two highest ranking department members caught up in the scandal, Stodelle and Bart Gray, have yet to emerge from it.
Both are in involved as an outgrowth of the political process, specifically the 2010 election when a deputy, Mark Averbeck, had challenged the then-sitting sheriff, Rod Hoops. Averbeck, relying on his inside knowledge of the department, raised the issue of the false training certifications as a campaign issue. Stodelle, whose mercurial rise to the level of assistant sheriff had been fueled in some measure based upon his friendships with former sheriffs Floyd Tidwell and Gary Penrod, inherited oversight of the sheriff’s academy at Devore. It would be his misfortune that his tour in that assignment corresponded with a portion of Angie Gray’s time carrying out clerical duty registering department members for training classes.
For decades, in the words of department members, “shortcuts” had been taken in the running of training programs. For POST classes to be held, an informal requirement was that there be 15 students per class. Given the far flung geography of San Bernardino County, oftentimes a sufficient number of deputies  were unavailable to initiate the POST classes and a pattern developed in which officers who were not present were listed as having been in attendance at the seminars. In this way, according to several now retired department members, falsification of the attendance records became common practice in the department.
In 2010, when Averbeck raised the issue publicly, the department reacted, seeking an administrative solution that would neutralize the matter. When Angie Gray’s involvement at the center of the scandal became apparent, focus fell immediately upon her husband. In short order, it was determined that Bart Gray had been a beneficiary of the falsified certifications and he was quietly pressured into taking retirement and returning $16,000 in pay enhancements he received as a consequence of the certifications as part of an administrative fix Hoops hoped would defuse the issue.
The matter did not die, however, even after the 2010 election, which Hoops won handily. Hoops then designated lieutenant Steve Dorsey to investigate the matter. Dorsey was empowered to work with the district attorney’s office and by extension the grand jury. Early on, Dorsey established the involvement of Angie Gray, Bart Gray and Sally Ann Christian. Stodelle, under whose watch the loose standards relating to training session attendance at the sheriff’s academy had continued, was implicated as well. Dozens, and eventually scores of names of department members who had in some fashion, either directly or indirectly, been involved through participation or knowledge of the falsifications surfaced.  Dorsey’s recommendation to the district attorney’s office and grand jury selectively focused on both Grays, Christian, Stodelle, Maddox, Wilke and Pichotta. When the indictment was handed down, it named only those seven. Subsequently, when the availability of the investigative documents relating to the case became an issue, the department told Judge Michael Smith, who has been hearing the matter, that such documents do not exist. This has been widely interpreted as an indication that large numbers of department members would be prosecutable under the same standards that were applied in the indictments of the seven who were charged.
Neither Bart Gray nor Stodelle has entered into serious discussions about a plea arrangement. There have been numerous delays in the case and the prosecution’s reluctance to take the matter to trial is apparent. Stodelle’s relative strength consists of his ability to demonstrate, in a trial setting, that scores of other department members were similarly involved in the attendance falsifications and that he is being selectively prosecuted. He is hamstrung, however, by his reluctance to implicate any of his former colleagues. Bart Gray, too, could insist on a jury trial but is hampered by his acceptance of the administrative discipline involving his retirement and his return of his enhanced salary based upon the false certifications, tantamount to an admission of culpability.
With the district attorney’s office’s imperative of resolving the matter prior to the 2014 election, when both sheriff John McMahon and district attorney Mike Ramos will need to stand for reelection to remain in office, Stodelle, Bart Gray and Christian appear to be in a holding pattern, determined to see if the charges against them will be dismissed.   All three are next scheduled to appear in court on November 8. It is unclear whether prosecutors will call upon Angela Gray to testify against her husband.

Hesperia To Seek Recovery From “Negligent” Users Of Safety Services

(September 6) The Hesperia City Council on September 3 approved an ordinance granting city staff the authority to seek cost recovery from users of municipal emergency assistance if they are deemed to have been responsible for the service need.
Until now, the city has picked up the cost for emergency response involving public agencies.  Under the newly passed ordinance, which will require a second confirmation from the council later this month to go into effect in October, the city is entitled to recoup up to $12,000 in emergency costs per person per incident.
While the city used driving under the influence incidents as the ostensible impetus for assuming the recovery authority, it will also apply to assistance rendered to individuals who find themselves at risk during flash floods in the 73 square-mile city, which is plagued with inadequate roads and has extensive drainage problems.
According to a staff report by Mike Podegacz, Hesperia’s city manager and city engineer, in 2012 there were 304 arrests within the city limits related to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, of which roughly 50 involved accidents and five involved fatalities.
But elsewhere in the report, Podegracz said the ordinance would allow the city to recover its emergency service costs not only where the costs resulted from “the negligent operation of a motor vehicle” but could be applied to “individuals convicted of filing a false police report, entering areas closed to the public, and becoming stranded on closed roadways due to flooding.”

Ontario In Landmark Fight With State For Tax Money After RDA Closure

(August 30) In what could prove to be a landmark case being closely observed by municipal officials up and down the state, the city of Ontario is inching ever closer to a legal showdown with the state of California over more than $21 million in tax revenue the state has announced it will unilaterally seize from the city next month as part of its move to shutter redevelopment agencies statewide.
Ontario has long asserted that $21,677,224 in sales-tax money generated within what had been Ontario’s redevelopment agency project areas is not subject to seizure by the state under the auspices of AB XI 26  and AB XI 27, two companion pieces of legislation that in 2011 closed out redevelopment agencies operated by California’s cities, counties and various political jurisdictions. Ontario utilizes the money in question to fund major portions of its police, fire and other service programs.
Redevelopment agencies were adjuncts to municipal government intended to transform troubled neighborhoods or districts while rejuvenating the local economy. Redevelopment agencies used a variety of funding mechanisms, including the issuance and sale of municipal bonds, to create infrastructure, promote economic development and eradicate blight. Theoretically, redevelopment bonds would pay for infrastructure improvements that would result in an increase in property values, in turn generating increased property tax. That property tax revenue increase, referred to as increment, would be utilized to pay the bondholders on a yearly basis.
In June 2011,  at Governor Jerry Brown’s behest, the legislature passed assembly bills XI 26 and XI 27, which set an abrupt timetable for the closing out of municipal redevelopment agencies by October 1, 2011. A coalition of cities delayed the implementation of that close-out by initiating a legal challenge of the law, but both XI 26 and XI 27 were upheld by the California Supreme Court in December 2011. Thus, the closures went into effect in February 2012. When the law passed, there were thousands of redevelopment agency projects that various cities had begun but had not finished, with millions of dollars left to fund the projects’ completion when the state foreclosed on the money.
Under AB XI 26 and AB XI 27, the redevelopment agencies’ proceeds were redirected back to the state, minus money generated by previous redevelopment agency-involved taxing arrangements that earmarked  the money to be used to debt service bond financing used by the agencies to pay for completed infrastructure. The discharging of that debt, under the provisions of AB XI 27, was to be handled by redevelopment agency successor agencies created in the wake of the redevelopment agencies’ dissolutions. In June 2012, the legislature passed a follow-up measure authorizing the state to withhold sales and property tax revenue if officials determine that an agency has failed to make good on its redevelopment obligations.  That law raised further hackles among cities, which howled with protest at this revenue-garnishing provision and then filed suit to test the constitutionality of that authority. The California Supreme Court again sided with the state.
In what is the first application of the sales-tax garnishing power, the state has laid claim to $21.7 million in sales tax revenue Ontario moved into accounts for the Ontario Housing Authority, which is utilizing the money on its mixed-use Town Square Project.
At the direction of Governor Brown, California Director of Finance Ana Matosantos on August 19 sent a letter to the state Board of Equalization, ordering the board to withhold Ontario’s sales tax revenue beginning in September. “Despite numerous orders by the Department of Finance, the city has refused to remit to the San Bernardino County auditor-controller $21,677,224 in unencumbered low-to-moderate income housing fund assets of its former redevelopment agency that are in the city’s possession,” Matosantos wrote. She instructed Cynthia Bridges, the executive director of the Board of Equalization, to withhold from Ontario beginning in September distribution of  “sales and use tax” equal to the sum of $21,677,224. “If the sums withheld in the first month are insufficient to satisfy the $21,677,224 that the city owes to the affected taxing entities, we direct the Board of Equalization to continue the withholding in each successive month until the owed amount is fully retired,” she wrote.
The state intends to follow up with a letter to the San Bernardino County auditor-controller’s office, instructing it to distribute the money to county schools, the county and other local agencies.
Three weeks ago, prior to Matosantos’s letter, Ontario City Manager Chris Hughes wrote to Matosantos, informing her that “Since the city is not in possession of the funds, the Department of Finance does not have the legal authority to order the city’s sales and use taxes to be withheld.” Hughes’ assertion that the city does not have possession of the funds is based upon his contention that the Ontario Housing Authority is an entity that is separate and distinct from the city of Ontario.
Ontario Mayor Paul Leon this week told the Sentinel, “I don’t believe the state has the right to balance its unbalanced budget on the backs of cities like Ontario. If the governor and the legislature had an issue with redevelopment, they should have gone after the cities that were abusing the system. They should not have killed the goose that was laying golden eggs by destroying a very valuable tool that responsible jurisdictions were using to instigate economic development.”
Leon continued, “The current issue with regard to the $21.67 million in this battle has to be fought between the state and the redevelopment successor agency, and they should not be robbing the city’s general fund. These are two distinctly different organizations. The city is a different entity than the housing authority. The state’s issue, if it has an issue at all, is with the housing authority, not the city of Ontario.  In my book, if you are going to fight, you should fight fair. We will do whatever it takes to get them to do what is right. They will have to withhold from the city of Ontario its sales tax base for a little over two months to recoup the amount the state says it is owed. The state never had the right to make that money grab and the way they are doing is completely wrong. It is fiscally irresponsible at the state level for them to be peering into local coffers and taking what they see. I will be darned if the city of Ontario is going to make it easy for them. If they have a right to recoup that money, they are going to have to prove it and they are going to recoup it from legal sources, and that does not include the general fund of the city of Ontario or the pockets of the people of Ontario.”
Either before or immediately after the Board of Equalization withholds the money, Ontario officials vowed, they will seek an injunction barring the Board of Equalization from garnishing the funds.
The city will need to seek that injunction in Sacramento Superior Court because AB X1 26 and AB X1 27 carry provisions requiring that any litigation challenging them be undertaken in Sacramento Superior Court. Ontario is better equipped than most cities to carry out an expensive and protracted legal battle with the state. It has a revenue stream greater than any other municipality in San Bernardino County, with a total of more than $462 million into all of its funds in fiscal 2013-14.
For that reason, Ontario’s battle against the state is being closely monitored by other municipalities. In San Bernardino County, the city of San Bernardino, the town of Apple Valley, the city of Hesperia, the city of Twentynine Palms and the county itself are disputing the state’s takeaway of their redevelopment money, or portions thereof. In Riverside County, that county and the cities of Desert Hot Springs, and Palm Springs are likewise at odds with the Department of Finance over left over redevelopment money. In Orange County, the city of Santa Ana is involved in a similar dispute.