Lawsuit, Including $500K-plus Embezzlement Accusation, Explicates Blough Departure

(October 22)  Details relating to abrupt parting of the ways between the San Bernardino Public Employees Association and its general manager, Bob Blough in the summer of 2013, a development shrouded in some degree of mystery, have emerged with the association’s filing of a lawsuit against Blough on October 17.
According to San Bernardino Public Employees Association President Ron Dunn, during Blough’s tenure as general manager “money” was “unaccounted for and misappropriated by Mr. Blough,” action which Dunn said “cannot go ignored.”
The complaint against Blough, filed on behalf of the San Bernardino Public Employees Association (SBPEA) by attorneys Dennis Hayes and Michelle Hribar of the San Diego-based law firm of  Hayes & Cunningham, states “In 2013 SBPEA hired new auditors Ahern Adcock Devlin LLP. In June 2013, during its audit of SBPEA, Ahern Adcock Devlin discovered that there was a large disparity in the amount of SBPEA’s recorded cash receipts and the amount of deposits made to SBPEA’s bank account at Security Bank of California  The amount of SBPEA’s recorded cash receipts appeared to far exceed the amount of cash deposits that had been made.”
The lawsuit continues, “Ahern Adcock Devlin asked Blough to provide the keys to SBPEA’s safe, where presumably cash making up the difference between SBPEA’s cash receipts and cash deposits would be located. Blough reluctantly provided Ahern Adcock Devlin with the key to SBPEA’s safe. Upon review of the cash in SBPEA’s safe, Ahern Adcock Devlin found only approximately $40,000 in cash, which was far less than the amount of cash received by SBPEA that was not deposited in SBPEA’s bank account. SBPEA immediately placed Blough on administrative leave without pay and shortly thereafter, terminated Bough’s employment. SBPEA also terminated from employment Blough’s assistant, Jeannie Marquez.”
The association undertook a more extensive investigation of the matter after Blough had departed, according to the lawsuit.
“SBPEA then hired Ahern Adcock Devlin to perform an audit of SBPEA’s records for the time period from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2013, in order to assist SBPEA with its investigation of Blough and Marquez,” the lawsuit states. “On October 1, 2014, Devlin provided the final results of its audit to SBPEA.  Ahern Adcock Devlin’s audit revealed that between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2013, a total of $595,444.82 in cash received by SBPEA was missing because it was never deposited into SBPEA’s bank account and was not in SBPEA’s safe. SBPEA is informed and believes and based thereon alleges that Blough misappropriated, converted, and embezzled cash in the amount of $595,444.82 from SBPEA.”
In addition, according to the lawsuit, there were other financial irregularities that occurred during Blough’s tenure as general manager.
“Ahern Adcock Devlin’s audit also revealed that during the time frame of July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2013, there were numerous charges on SBPEA’s credit cards, including those held in Blough’s name, which appeared to be personal-in-nature,” the suit states. “The purchases appearing to be personal-in-nature amount to $108,345.14. SBPEA is informed and believes and based thereon alleges that in addition to the $595,444.82 in cash, Blough also misappropriated, converted, and embezzled $109,345.14 of SBPEA’s funds by using SBPEA’s credit cards in order to pay for his own personal expenses.”
According to the suit, there were other questionable credit card expenses by Blough for storage units, tools, paper, grills and other supplies, which had no supporting documentation available.
According to the suit, “Blough intentionally concealed his misappropriation, conversion and embezzlement of funds from SBPEA’s executive committee and members. SBPEA is informed and believes and based thereon alleges that Blough falsified and altered SBPEA’s records in order to conceal his misappropriation, conversion, and embezzlement of funds from the SBPEA executive committee and members.”
Efforts to locate Blough for comment were unsuccessful.
The San Bernardino Public Employees Association represents and handles collective bargaining for over 11,000 employees working for San Bernardino County and 3,000 others working for 16 of the county’s cities – Barstow, Big Bear, Chino, Chino Hills, Colton Fontana, Hesperia, Loma Linda, Montclair, Needles, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Rialto, San Bernardino, and Upland, as well as three cities in east Los Angeles County, Claremont, Pomona and West Covina, and Banning in Riverside County.

Newest Prisoner Transportation Bus For Sheriff’s Office To Cost County $603,000

(October 21)  The board of supervisors this week approved a no-bid contract with an Illinois-based company for the purchase of a bus for the sheriff’s department to use to transport prisoners, including forays between detention facilities and back and forth from jail to court.
While modern busses used for passenger transport in the United States typically cost from $300,000 to $400,000, the bus San Bernardino County taxpayers are buying for the sheriff’s department will run more than $600,000.
A report dated October 21, 2014 ostensibly from sheriff John McMahon to the board of supervisors that was actually written by sheriff’s captain Shannon Dicus states “The sheriff’s department is requesting a non-competitive procurement with Motor Coach Industries in order to maintain a standardized fleet of jail buses. The department strives to replace inmate security transportation buses when they reach the one million mile mark. The department has worked to standardize its fleet of jail transportation buses and has found that Motor Coach Industries is a reasonably priced bus that meets its specifications required for reliable short and long distance prisoner transportation needs. The last purchase of inmate transportation buses was previously approved by the board of supervisors on November 27, 2012
The advantages of having a standardized fleet from Motor coach Industries include providing the drivers a more predictable operating environment with familiar controls and handling capabilities, which in turn increase safety while the buses are in operation. In addition to the capability of the Motor Coach Industries buses to carry twice as many people compared to other manufacturers, the department also saves time and money on the maintenance as mechanics and motor pool personnel can more predictably assess common maintenance issues without additional training, and take advantage of interchangeable parts and equipment. Motor coach Industries buses are also currently being used by San Diego County, Riverside County, Orange County, Los Angeles County, and the California Department of Corrections.  Security and reliability are the department’s highest priorities for bus design and the Motor Coach Industries bus has been specifically designed according to the department’s requirements and specifications. Motor Coach Industries jail transportation bus design features, maintenance record, reasonable price, and long life have made it a consistent replacement choice. Purchasing concurs with the non-competitive justification as the functionality of the bus provides a predictable operating environment with familiar controls and handling capabilities. The department is continually kept up to date on other manufacturers’ products and will competitively solicit when safety and other specifications can be met.”
Dicus told the Sentinel that the busses contain a number of features that are not available on typical busses. “It has a bathroom, which is necessary for prison runs to the northern part of the state,” Dicus said. “The busses have automatic transmissions, which fits with our effort to standardized them. The floor plan features internal security which allows us to separate high security inmates from other inmates. It has individual areas that can be secured.”
In compliance with the sheriff’s department recommendation, the board of supervisors authorized the county’s purchasing agent to issue a purchase order to Motor Coach Industries for one D4000 inmate security transportation bus in the amount of $603,058.59.

Botta’s Pocket Gopher (Thomomys Bottae)

Botta’s pocket gopher (Thomomys bottae), which is also known as the valley pocket gopher is ahighly adaptable small mammal that has found a home, among, other places, in the expanses of San Bernardino County.
Botta’s pocket gopher is a medium-sized gopher, with adults reaching a length of  roughly seven to ten-and-a-half inches, including a two to two-and-a-half inch tail. Males are larger, with a weight of 5.6 to 8.8 ounces, compared with 4.2 to 7.1 ounces in the females. Coloration is highly variable, and has been used to help distinguish some of the many subspecies; it may also change over the course of a year as the animals molt. Both albino and melanistic individuals have also been reported. However, Botta’s gopher generally lacks the black stripe down the middle of the back found in the closely related southern pocket gopher. They have furlined cheek pouches.
In addition to being native to California, these creatures are present in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and southern Colorado and Mexico. Within this geographical area, they inhabit a range of habitats, including woodlands, chaparral, scrubland, and agricultural land, being limited only by rocky terrain, barren deserts, and major rivers. They are found at elevations up to 13,800 feet.
There are roughly 195 subspecies of the Botta’s pocket gopher, and many of these have evolved because of their geographical distribution and the differences in climate and habitat. California boasts 43 subspecies
Botta’s pocket gopher is strictly herbivorous, feeding on a variety of plant matter. Shoots and grasses are particularly important, supplemented by roots, tubers, and bulbs during the winter. An individual will often pull plants into the ground by the roots to consume them in the safety of its burrow, where it spends 90 percent of its life.
Main predators of this species include American badgers, coyotes, long-tailed weasels, and snakes, but other predators include skunks, owls, bobcats, and hawks. This species is considered a pest in urban and agricultural areas due to its burrowing habit and its predilection for alfalfa. Paradoxically, it is also considered beneficial as its burrows are a key source of aeration for soils in the region. Digging by Botta’s pocket gophers is estimated to aerate the soil to a depth of about eight inches and to be responsible for the creation of Mima mounds up to six-and-a-half feet in height. Populations of the species have been estimated to mine as much as 28 tons of soil per hectare per year, much of which is moved below ground, rather than being pushed up into the mounds. On the negative side, the species has been associated with the deaths of aspen in Arizona and creates patches of bare ground that may limit the establishment of new seedlings.
The Botta’s pocket gopher is highly adaptable, burrowing into a very diverse array of soils from loose sands to tightly packed clays, and from arid deserts to high altitude meadows. They are able to tolerate such a wide range of soils in part because they dig primarily with their teeth, which are larger and with a thicker layer of enamel than in claw-digging gophers. In comparison, gophers digging with their claws are generally only able to dig in softer soils, because their claws wear down more quickly than teeth do in harder materials.
Botta’s pocket gophers are active for a total of about nine hours each day, spending most of their time feeding in their burrows, but are not restricted to either daylight or night time. They make little sound, although they do communicate by making clicking noises, soft hisses, and squeaks.
Their burrows include multiple deep chambers for nesting, food storage, and defecation, that are  as much as five feet below ground. A series of tunnels close to the surface are used for feeding on plant roots, and have shorter side tunnels for disposal of excavated soil. On the surface, the burrows are marked by fan-shaped mounds of excavated soil, with the actual entrance usually kept filled in for protection. Population densities of between 10 and 62 per acre have been reported.
Above ground traces of these burrows are sometimes called “gopher eskers.”
Outside of the breeding season, each burrow is inhabited by a single adult, with any young leaving once they are weaned. Male burrows extend over a mean area of 5,100 square feet, and those of females 3,080 square feet. The gophers aggressively defend a larger exclusive area, of up to 8,700 square feet for males and 4,200 square feet for females, around the burrow entrance.
Tunnel systems more than 450 feet in length are not rare. These ramified travelways assist the  occupants in avoiding avoid predators that try to search them out; they are equally important in permitting the gopher to forage over a considerable area without exposure to undue danger. In winter, if snow covers the ground, the gophers often extend their burrows into the snow and can then forage aboveground in safety.
Although pocket gophers are active the year round, they store food to carry them over periods of scarcity, especially periods of drought when food is scarce and burrowing a difficult task. Usually, only one adult animal occupies each burrow system except for a short time in the breeding period. Associated with this solitary habit is a ferocious and seemingly fearless disposition. When two gophers encounter each other, they will fight or meticulously avoid each other. Desire for companionship seems to be completely lacking in their makeup.
In areas with sufficient food, such as agricultural land, breeding can occur year round, with up to four litters being born each year. In the north, and other, less hospitable, environments, breeding occurs only during the spring. The local habitat also affects the age at which females begin breeding, with nearly half doing so in their first year in agricultural land, but none at all in desert scrub.
Gestation lasts eighteen days, and results in the birth of a litter of up to twelve pups, although three or four is more typical. The young are born hairless and blind, and measure about two inches in length. The first, silky coat of fur is replaced by a coarser coat of grey hair as the pups age, before the full adult coat develops.
Botta’s pocket gophers are capable of breeding with southern pocket gophers, and, until the 1980s, were often considered to belong to the same species. However, male hybrids are sterile, and females have greatly reduced fertility and rarely have offspring of their own. Hybridisation with Townsend’s pocket gopher has also been reported, and it too appears not to extend much beyond the first generation.
The specific and common names of this species honor Paul-Émile Botta, a naturalist and archaeologist who collected mammals in California in the 1820s and 1830s.

Town Attorney Moves To Quash Yucca Valley Council Member Depostions

(October 16)  Yucca Valley Town Attorney Lona Laymon has made a motion with the Superior Court to quash subpoenas filed by the attorney for a town resident which call for the  depositions of the members of the town council.
A deposition is questioning of witnesses or participants in  legal actions such as a lawsuit or prosecution under oath, i.e., the penalty of perjury.
Fritz Koenig, who owns property on Hoot Owl Trail, has been engaged in a lawsuit against a nearby resident, David Falossi, since January 2009.  Key to the litigation between Koenig and Falossi is a road which traverses Koenig’s property and over which all but one of Koenig’s neighbors transit to reach their residential properties. The road is not subject to an easement, although Koenig lets his neighbors use it as “a neighborly accommodation.”
Falossi is an accomplished artist and sculptor who works in many media, including large heavy objects intended as outdoor venue decorations and art pieces. He works from his home studio.
Koenig has objected to what he characterizes as the industrial nature of Falossi’s fabricating operation that is central to his sculpturing and artwork, which involves welding, stone grinding and glass grinding. Koenig maintains that such activity is incompatible with a rural residential neighborhood and out of compliance with the town’s codes that were in effect since shortly after the town’s incorporation.
Moreover, Koenig has objected to Falossi utilizing the dirt road across his property to bring forklifts and a large truck to transport both the raw material Falossi uses in his fabrication process as well as the finished artwork, which in some cases weighs several thousand pounds, to and from his home studio.
Falossi, who lives at  his home studio with his wife and four children,  has accused Koenig of harassing him and members of his family.
The contretemps between Koenig and Falossi spread from across their adjoining property line into the courts, entailing the granting of restraining orders. The matter spilled over into Yucca Valley Town Hall when Falosi applied for a home occupation permit, which Koenig then opposed.   Koenig brought the matter before the town council when he appealed a planning commission decision in favor of Falossi in which he  sought to have the town enforce elements of the town code pertaining to permissible activities in a residential zone. Koenign maintains the town code has been violated because at least some of the fabricating activity Falossi engages in at his studio is excluded from all residential zones. Koenig’s objection resulted in the town reexamining its land use policy, with the planning commission considering changes to the development code to allow greater latitude with regard to the type and nature of home-based businesses that can locate in the town’s residential zones. This begat some degree of controversy as some residents objected to what they perceived as the potential of commercializing or industrializing their neighborhoods.
Simultaneously, the town council began looking into the circumstance on Hoot Owl Trail, including at one point, driving out the road that led across Koenig’s property to Falossi’s studio, looking at his equipment and vehicles used to transport his supplies and finished artwork and touring the studio itself. Falossi has never permitted Koenig to come into his studio. Nor has the court granted Koenig access to it to fully examine the scope of its operations.  In pursuing the ongoing litigation, Koenig has been seeking to establish that the activity there is of such an intensity and nature that it is in violation of the town code. In discussing their tour of the Falossi property in an open public forum, members of the town council indicated that manufacturing of an industrial nature was occurring there, as when town council member Bob Leone referenced glass grinding taking place on the premises.
Consequently, Koenig has moved to take the depositions of all five council members, hoping to learn from them whether they observed any activity on the property which would buttress his case.
After notice of the depositions was made, however, Lona Laymon, the Yucca Valley Town Attorney, gave indication she was moving to block Koenig and his attorney, John B. Barriage, from moving forward with that questioning under oath.
While the law does provide a governmental board’s members with confidential privilege relating to its decision making and  deliberative processes, that privilege is not absolute and Koenig may have legal grounds for learning from the town council and its individual members what facts or circumstances they encountered in their fact finding process.
Barriage told the Sentinel he does not think Laymon will have adequate grounds to bar him from questioning the council members.
“They are percipient witnesses of conditions on the property,” Barriage said of the council. “I am not going to ask about what was on their minds. I merely what to find out from them what they saw while they were inspecting the studio on the Falossi property. I am not going after their decision making process.”
Laymon filed five separate similarly worded objection’s to Koenig’s deposition requests on behalf of each of the council members.
According to Laymon, “Town and town concilmember object to the subpoena, including all definitions and instructions, to the extent that it seeks the disclosure of information protected from discovery by the attorney-client privilege… the attorney work-product doctrine… the tax filing privilege, the trade secret or proprietary information privilege, the deliberative process privilege, the official information privilege… the trade secret privilege, the town councilmember’s rights of privacy and/or any other applicable privilege or immunity. Town and town councilmember object to the subpoena as unduly burdensome to the extent it seeks to impose on town councilmember the obligation to ascertain facts that are not known to him/her. Town councilmember has little or no personal knowledge of the ongoing personal disputes between Friederich Koenig and his neighbors and/or other matters alleged in the lawsuit(s) underlying the subpoena.  Town council official actions upon the “home occupation permit”as demanded in the subpoena bear no relevance to the above-captioned case(s) and there is no basis to believe that the town councilmember can add any evidence that is relevant and material to the personal disputes between Friederich Koenig and his neighbors.”
It is anticipated that Barriage will oppose Laymon’s motion, which ultimately will be decided upon by Judge David Cohn.

SBPEA Sues, Sics DA On Past General Manager Blough

(October 17)  Fourteen months after his curious departure as the general manager of the San Bernardino Public Employees Association, Bob Blough has been accused by the current union leadership of absconding with association funds and making unauthorized expenditures.
In addition to seeking a criminal investigation of Blough from the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, the board of directors for the San Bernardino Public Employees Association voted to file a civil lawsuit against him.
The action by the board comes after the completion of a forensic audit of the union’s financial books that was completed October 6. The results of the audit justify both civil and criminal action, association officials said.
The San Bernardino Public Employees Association represents and handles collective bargaining for over 11,000 employees working for San Bernardino County and 3,000 others working for 16 of the county’s cities – Barstow, Big Bear, Chino, Chino Hills, Colton Fontana, Hesperia, Loma Linda, Montclair, Needles, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Rialto, San Bernardino, and Upland, as well as three cities in east Los Angeles County, Claremont, Pomona and West Covina, and Banning in Riverside County.
“The employment of SBPEA General Manager Bob Blough has come to an end,” a posting on the SBPEA website’s homepage in August 2013 tersely said. There was no explanation offered at that time for his abrupt exodus. He was replaced on what was supposed to be an interim basis by Deidre Rodriguez. More than a year later, Rodriguez remains in that position.
Blough, who replaced the late Chris Prato as the association’s general manager in 2007, appeared dedicated, if somewhat theatrical in his approach. In 2008 Blough wore a chicken suit to a board of supervisors meeting in 2008 to protest the board’s offer of a $100 million increase in increased salaries and benefits to county employees as too meager, or in his words, a  “fowl offer.”
In 2012 he was highly critical of county chief administrative officer Greg Devereaux’s contract proposals that contained retirement and health benefit reductions, after those givebacks had been accepted by some of the other bargaining units in the county that represent public safety employees and management personnel.
In the summer of 2013, the SBPEA found itself under challenge, fending off several efforts to decertify SBPEA as the representative of some employee divisions, including one by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and another by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. FSCME.
“The SBPEA Board of Directors has requested that District Attorney Mike Ramos investigate funds that are missing from the San Bernardino Public Employees Association,” according to SPEA President Ron Dunn. “This request was made after SBPEA completed an internal investigation of association finances. A  key component of that investigation was a special audit. SBPEA tasked an independent auditor with reviewing financial irregularities that had come to light at the end of the tenure of former SBPEA General Manager Bob Blough.”
According to Dunn, “Mr. Blough had been terminated for, among other things, refusing to allow SBPEA’s auditing firm to conduct the annual audit of the Association’s finances.”
That was the first explanation given as to why Blough had left the organization in 2013.
“The special audit ordered by the SBPEA Board of Directors revealed that association money was unaccounted for and that there had been several unauthorized expenditures,” Dunn said. “Upon receiving this special audit, the SBPEA Board of Directors unanimously voted to take the audit to the district attorney. I personally delivered the information to District Attorney Mike Ramos on October 10, 2014 on behalf of SBPEA’s directors and membership. SBPEA has requested that the District Attorney thoroughly investigate this matter and that all criminal acts be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. SBPEA is also bringing a civil action against Mr. Blough to recover the funds.”
The moves by the association against Blough at this late date, coming so long after his removal as general manager, was questioned in some quarters. Immediately after his departure in 2013, there were reports Blough was being investigated by the district attorney’s office for potential financial improprieties. No prosecution ensued, an indication the case against him is less than solid. Moreover, the lawsuit and the report of the request to the district attorney’s office for an investigation comes a month-and-a-half after Paula Ready, who was the president of SBPEA before, during and for one year after his departure, was replaced by Dunn, a sign of a possible power struggle at the association’s leadership level.

Musser-Lopez Stakes State Senate Bid On Portraying Incumbent As Neglectful

(October 16)  Ruth Musser Lopez said she is running for the California State Senate in the 16th District, which stretches from Tulare County in the northwest through Kern County and into San Bernardino County’s Mojave Desert in the southeast, because the current office holder, Jean Fuller, has neglected the district.
“We have major challenges facing our desert rural communities that are not being addressed by the present incumbent,” Musser Lopez said. “We are losing out on Jean Fuller’s watch.”
Musser-Lopez said, “One of our major challenges is the attempt to pump and pipe desert water to the coast and other types of desert water heists, for example PG&E destroying the Hinkley water aquifer by contaminating it with Chromium 6.   Another challenge is the loss of our justice courthouses in SD16 in Tulare, Barstow and Needles.  We lost the entire justice community—judges, lawyers, clerks and other support staff and now people have lost their access to justice, and have to spend time and money traveling 8 hours to get to and from court.  As of the last big downpour, our bridges on Route 66 are washed out in at least three places, now rendering the route unusable.”
Musser continued, “Someone in the Senate position could do something about it, but Fuller seems disinterested in our troubles in the desert.  In the desert we have concerns about a water aquifer drop because of water heists and what that would do to the springs that support desert wildlife, vegetation and are multi-million dollar tourist industry.  Jean Fuller is low on her scores for the environment and gets an “F” grade from PAW PAC for her voting record on animal protection.  People enjoy wildlife and many of her constituents in the high desert are upset with her vote against the prohibition on Bobcat trapping around Joshua Tree National Park.   PG&E continues to be allowed to monitor their own Chromium 6 “clean up” activity and that tragic situation at the Hinkley aquifer is still going on after 20 years even after the situation was exposed by the famous movie Erin Brockovich.    Humans and wildlife have all suffered from this catastrophe.”
Musser-Lopez mentioned the lead advocacy role she played in opposing the Cadiz Water Project, which involves the Los Angeles-based Cadiz Company siphoning up to 50,000 acre-feet of water from the Eastern Mojave Desert’s water table and conveying it in a pipeline to Los Angeles and Orange County for sale there.
“I started fighting the Cadiz water heist two years ago and during this campaign, I went  into Bakersfield from the desert, introduced myself, then set about to expose all the troubles that Fuller could have done something about but didn’t,” Musser-Lopez said. “Bakersfield is key to this Senate election because that is where most of the voters live. My idea was also to find out how Bakersfield and other communities could conserve water so that they would not threaten to siphon off desert water.”
Regional water resources are being exploited by outsiders, Musser-Lopez said, depriving local areas of a key commodity need for economic development and the sustenance of existing agricultural and other activities.
“Even with all of the water that typically flows down from the Sierras in the Kern River right through the center of Bakersfield, the aquifer is dried up and collapsing…its called subsidence,” Musser-Lopez said. “Where is all of the water going?  Have you ever seen the Kern River channel with all of its oil wells?  Billions of gallons of water are being contaminated so badly in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) operations that it can’t be recycled and is thus sent down into old deep oil wells.  But this summer, California state regulators shut down fracking wells with incomplete analysis showing that, and I quote, ‘3 billion gallons of wastewater were illegally injected into central California aquifers and that half of the water samples collected at the 8 water supply wells tested near the injection sites have high levels of dangerous chemicals such as arsenic, a known carcinogen that can also weaken the human immune system, and thallium, a toxin used in rat poison.’  Do we deserve to know what chemicals the oil companies are using to frack?  Jean Fuller thinks this is none of our business and voted against a bill that would have required oil and gas companies to disclose what chemicals they are using above the Central Valley aquifer.  People are surprised when I tell them that PG&E’s poisoned Chromium 6 water was (and still may be being) transported by liquid waste haulers from Needles superfund site and released into deep wells around Bakersfield.”
Musser-Lopez indicated that she disagreed “with Fuller’s vote against a moratorium on fracking until studies are completed to understand the long-term impact.     Not only would I have voted for disclosure and a moratorium, I would also introduce an oil and gas extraction fee, similar to fees charged by other large oil producing states, which would generate 1-2 billion dollars in annual state revenue.  These funds could be used to enhance the environment and community from which they extract those natural resources.   Fuller’s contributors also include  CA Independent Petroleum Association, Chevron, Valero, Conoco Phillips, and BP.  Unlike our incumbent,  I owe nothing to polluter corporation interests and I will make sure that the people’s interests are represented in Sacramento.”
Musser-Lopez said she is qualified to serve in the state senate in large measure because she advocates policies contrary to Fuller’s.
“State Senate District 16 stretches across the state, encompassing an area that involves significant natural, cultural, technological, industrial, recreational and other resources of all kinds that need to be managed in a responsible manner and for the good of the people of California, particularly those who live here,” Musser-Lopez said. “Early in my adult years I was employed by the biggest land manager in Senate District 16—the federal Bureau of Land Management and I know this Senate District well, not just because I have lived here for 34 years but because this is where I worked as an Archaeologist throughout the Mojave Desert alongside experts in a variety of fields including range management, realty managers, geologists, biologists, and hazardous materials specialists.
Musser-Lopez continued, “Currently, we have a Senator who was a school teacher with a degree in education and then a school administrator before she turned politician. She is pretty impressive with her public speech, but where has she been?  Was she there for us when we were fighting the Ward Valley nuclear dump?  Was she there when we were fighting RailCycle—the L.A. trash train?  She was in office when we were trying to fight off the Cadiz water heist, why didn’t she help us?  Why hasn’t the Hinkley aquifer been seized out of PG&E’s control?   I’ve been a water conservation activist for almost 30 years and frankly, we’re just spinning our wheels by re-electing someone who does not serve our best interests.  She claims we are in this water crisis because we have failed to build new reservoirs and infrastructure.  I disagree.  Our above ground reservoirs evaporate and the ones we have now are extremely low.  We need to focus on recharging the underground aquifers. We are in the crisis because of global warming and the carbon emissions, but the Republicans vote against the High Speed Rail project that would significantly reduce the carbon footprint while creating thousands of good jobs over the course of the next 30 years and build for the future.”
Musser-Lopez said, “People should research what legislation Fuller sponsored, including alleviating the liability of rich people with their private airports.  Another was a bill that lessened the amount of time well owners have to protest condemnation by rich water districts. Fuller gets the lowest score of all Senators on the issue of equality and fair treatment of people and students with regard to their sexual orientation and gender.”
Musser-Lopez is a Democrat. Fuller is a Republican
Musser-Lopez said, “I support the Democrats no-frills water conservation project proposed in Measure 1 on our November 4 ballot that will reallocate money from unused bonds to make better use of the money. Our need for safe drinking water for all communities is critical and Measure 1 will start the ball rolling on filling up our dangerously low underground water aquifers in the central valley where we can store water naturally while protecting it from evaporation. Jean Fuller did not write or sponsor Measure 1, the water bond. She went along with voting for it but meanwhile voted against the companion SB1168, the landmark water conservation bill which gives the state authority to put to put the water bond money to work.   Her reason? She said it would put state people we didn’t vote for in charge of local water.  Meanwhile, in her own district, intra county water swaps saved Central Valley farmers during this last growing season. We cannot assume that the water crisis can be taken care of locally.  State officials are appointees of the governor and our elected representatives in Sacramento and the Water Commission is the right government entity to get the job done. We need to ensure that our farms and businesses get the water they need during dry years by managing our water resources efficiently in wet years and being in a good position to transport surface water from outside areas that have excess water to give.”
Musser-Lopez asked, “So what is Jean’s real reason for voting against measures that would require big farm corporations with junior water rights to meter their water?” She then posited a possible answer: “Fuller’s supporters include Monsanto, Paramount, California Farm Bureau, Dairy Institute, Kraft, Wine Institute and California Grain and Feed.”
Musser Lopez contrasted her approach with that of Fuller.
“On the contrary, I have been there for the people throughout our District’s struggles and I have fought for water conservation for going on 30 years,” she said. “In the 1990s, while my two children were attending public school in Needles, I dedicated myself to providing for them while I actively protested a national radioactive waste disposal facility that was to be cited over the water aquifer supplying the city and connected to the Colorado River.  I  authored and circulated a countywide voter initiative to prohibit the disposal of radioactive/nuclear waste in unlined trenches above desert aquifers.  Over 20,000 voter signatures were collected and soon after, the facility plans were discarded.”
Musser-Lopez said she offered a wider perspective on the full range of issues confronting California than does Fuller.
Musser-Lopez said, “The solution to pollution must not be dilution in our water aquifers.” She said that “I am for providing incentives for installing energy efficient roof top and road way solar and large solar plants over already disturbed parcels and corridors, and I want to create peace time jobs for veterans on projects that would lower the carbon footprint.”
“I am a published author,” she said. “I have a proven capability of being able to read, write, and sponsor law.   I went to UCLA and I graduated from the University of California, Riverside with honors (cum laude) but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that, right now, we’ve got the wrong person representing us in Sacramento.  We need change at the State level. I am offering my ability to work hard and dig in.  I am your neighbor and friend, the Archaeologist who will demand that Sacramento throw us more than just a bone.”
Musser Lopez attended and graduated from Chaffey High School in Ontario. She earned her degree in archaeology from the U.C. system, at both the Los Angeles and Riverside campuses. She was a member of the Needles City Council. With her husband, she has two children.

Arrest Of Barstow Store Owner On Fencing Charge Questioned

(October 14)  The arrest of the proprietor of Barstow’s  Downtown Market last week has triggered questions over the propriety of the action taken against him.
On October 8, detectives with the Barstow Police Department, accompanied by uniformed officers, served a search warrant at Downtown Market, located at 219 E. Main Street. That search warrant was apparently based upon a tip that the owner of the establishment, Omar Snoubar, had purchased some electronic items taken in a residential burglary in the 1400 block of Sage Drive on August 20 as well as well as two laptops that were shoplifted by  Andrew Paul Staggs and Carol Lin Crunk from Walmart on August 28.
During the October 8 search, police found what they believe to be the items stolen from the Sage Drive residence, a television and a computer. Snoubar handed the laptops over to police in September after Staggs and Crunk were arrested on September 15 and informed detectives they had sold them to Snoubar.
Snoubar was arrested on suspicion of possession of stolen property. Barstow police have alleged that Downtown Market was being operated as an illegal pawn shop.
Indeed, Snoubar, by either purchasing for resale or allowing his customers to hock merchandise, appears to have run afoul of California’s Business and Professions Code by operating a secondhand dealership without a license. Pawn shops are required to be licensed through the State of California, Department of Justice and the city.
Nevertheless, a number of people in Barstow, including Snoubar’s customers, employees, former employees and fellow merchants are questioning whether Snoubar had the requisite intent to be acting as a “fence” of stolen property, as police implied in the arrest of him.
Snoubar’s transgression in violating the Business and Professions Code, which his supporters insist was done out of ignorance, does not amount to the crime of theft, several said. They said any enforcement action against him should have been handled by the city’s code enforcement division or city attorney and that legal action should have been done through a civil process rather than a criminal one.
The licensing and registration requirements applicable to pawn shops, together with reporting protocols for the purchase or pawning of items and attendant arrangements for insurance and bonding of the operation is intended to allow law enforcement to monitor the merchandise being channeled through such establishments and check it against the roster of items reported stolen locally.
Snoubar posted bail on October 9. The district attorney’s office has not yet charged him with any crime. The police department has acknowledged that its investigation into the matter is yet ongoing.

Inadequate Presidential Response Shifts Burden To GOP-Led Congress, Cook Says

(October 10)  Congressman Paul Cook says that his successful efforts at safeguarding the interests of his constituents merit him a second term in Congress.
A 26-year Marine Corps veteran who achieved the rank of colonel, Cook began his political career as a councilman and mayor with the town of Yucaa Valley and served in the California Assembly before  being elected to the  U.S. House of  Representatives for California’s 8th Congressional District in 2012.
With regard to his major accomplishments in his less than two years in Washington, D.C., Cook said, “The biggest victory, bar none, was in retaining over 100,000 acres of land for off-road vehicle use in Johnson Valley, at a time when the Marine Corps was poised to take everything. When I took office in 2012, everyone assumed the Marines would take it all. I fought back, built a coalition, and made my case in Congress. It worked.
“I’ve also had success in veterans legislation, passing legislation prioritizing claims for terminally ill veterans and those over the age of 70,” he continued. “I took a leading role investigating the widespread abuses at the Veterans Administration, passing vital legislation to reform it. I was able to pass legislation out of the House for a crucial land exchange for Mammoth Mountain in Mono County. I’m still hopeful that it will move through the Senate during the lame duck session late this year, but I know that with a Republican Senate in 2015, we’ll get this deal through, and it will help create a lot of jobs in a place that sorely needs it.
“Finally,” he said, “I’ve held the line on government spending. In fact, during my time in Congress I’ve helped reduce the deficit by over $23 billion. This is above and beyond the tens of billions in deficit reduction due to the sequester. That’s not nearly enough, but it’s a good start.”
Cook, a Republican, is opposed in this year’s race by Bob Conaway, a Democrat, who has assailed him on any number of issues, including charging that Cook is more loyal to Corporate America than the country’s citizens, that he failed to support more substantial funding to make a national response to the Ebola crisis, that  he had voted to in effect gut the Clean Water Act, that he promoted with his votes what Conway characterized as “substandard” health care plans, and that he has voted in support of legislation that Conaway said would “steal” money from pension funds.
“My opponent tends to engage in personal attacks, and I think that’s a huge disservice to America,” Cook said of Conaway’s biting criticisms. “Many of the claims are silly and not worth repeating. I work hard on issues brought before me, regardless of the source, and I stand by my votes and actions. I’m a proud American and proud combat veteran of the Vietnam era. I don’t apologize for either.”
Cook said he embraced his Republicanism, despite attacks on the party’s stances and policies and suggestions by Conaway that Cook is out of step with the priorities and values of the country at large, as he said the GOP is generally.
“California’s Eighth Congressional District is a conservative district, and I think I fit it very well,” said Cook. “This isn’t San Francisco; this is real America. I don’t ignore Democrats – local leaders from Barstow to the Morongo Basin will tell you that – but I am guided by my conservative principles: lower taxes, smaller more effective government, a strong military, and care for our veterans. These are my biggest issues, and I believe the overwhelming majority of my constituents agree with these priorities.”
On the other hand, Cook rejected assertions by a Republican who opposed Cook in this year’s  primary, Paul Hannosh, suggesting that for the majority of his constituents in the Eighth District, Cook is not conservative enough.
“I’d suggest that’s cheap rhetoric,” Cook said of Hannosh’s claim. “I vote to reduce and eliminate taxes at every opportunity, I vote for a strong military, and I want a smaller more efficient government. If one looks at my voting record – facts, not rhetoric – you’ll see I stand for liberty, constitutional rights, and all of the things that make America the greatest country on earth. I’ve voted to eliminate Obamacare, and I voted to create a balanced federal budget, one that will reduce the burden on working Americans. I don’t care how my detractors label it; I’m fighting to make government work for the people. We need to reclaim it for ourselves.”
Of the  major challenges facing the country, Cook said, “We’re facing new threats internationally from terrorist groups, and many Americans have lost faith in government and in their ability to gain employment that will allow them to thrive and raise a family. I don’t have confidence in our current president to face these challenges, so it’s up to Congress to continue addressing the problems of the nation. We need good jobs, and we need better national security. To do less is to endanger the future of our great nation.”
With regard to the major issues roiling in the Eighth District, Cook said, “Jobs are priority one. We still suffer from unemployment that exceeds the state and national averages. Nearly all improvement starts with good paying jobs.
“We also face a huge threat from federal bureaucracies trying to dictate to us how to use the land,” Cook continued. “I’m fighting a huge battle against a proposal by urban politicians to make our Mt. Baldy a national monument. Beyond that, we have trails issues in the north and renewable energy conflicts in Victor Valley, just to name a few. I want locals to have the leading voice in these land use decisions, not some bureaucrat in Sacramento or Washington DC. This is our land, and we need to fight for it.”
Cook said, “I want to find ways to utilize our district’s natural advantage in things like rail transportation systems, road transportation systems, and natural resources. We also have wonderful land availability and a number of local governments poised to work with new businesses. So my job is to create the incentives and improve the infrastructure in a way that draws businesses and jobs to the district.”
Cook asserted he is a better candidate for Congress than Conaway.
“I’ve traveled this entire district and met with countless veterans, retirees, and business owners,” Cook said. “They all want the same thing: a smaller government that works where it needs to work and stays out of their lives otherwise. I’m a combat veteran in an area with a huge veterans population, and I know the land issues that threaten our way of life. I also understand national security issues, learned during my 26 years in the Marine Corps. I’ll fight for our constitutional rights, and I’ll fight for lower taxes. That, I believe, is what the people want.”

Warren Credits Her Leadership With Complete Transformation Of Fontana

(October 15)  Acquanetta Warren touted her leadership skills in explaining why she believes she deserves a second term as mayor of Fontana.
In sizing up her accomplishments over the last four years during which she has reigned as mayor and the eight years prior to that when she was on the city council, Warren said she had overseen “the complete transformation of the city of Fontana both economically and socially. We made the environment safe.”
The major challenges and issues facing Fontana, Warren said, consist of “making sure we continue maintaining and improving our neighborhoods and make it so our residents take better advantage of the transportation options available to them. I want people to know this is the logistics capital of the United States. We have to ensure that we maintain our infrastructure and utilities. That is what I have to work on over the next four years.”
Warren said, “We have three new interchanges coming in. One is being completed and the other two will be underway in a very short time. When they are completed, they are going to create a huge opportunity for economic development.”
Her formula for the city meeting the challenges it faces is to, she said, “continue to develop our city as the transportation hub it already is. I want to bring better jobs to Fontana. The way to do that is to expand and make our city a more desirable location for companies. We need to make sure our transportation advantages attract companies. We should be the power broker in moving goods in the region. We have to protect our way of life by keeping our neighborhoods safe. We have to work with all of the community’s agencies, including the local water companies to move forward with our idea of what the city should look like in the future. We need to continue our current partnerships and start new partnerships. One of the most important things is to have a balanced budget. The most important thing in my mind besides public safety is having a balanced budget.”
Warren said she merits reelection because “I have vision. I have drive. I have a proven leadership record. I have been a major driving force behind Fontana’s revitalization and its future. I have the leadership needed to fulfill the potential Fontana has. I have proved with the city’s Healthy Fontana Program, which is the umbrella for all of our promotion programs, that Fontana is second to none in terms of parks. Fontana is second to none in terms of facilities. Fontana is second to none in terms of police service. It is second to none in terms of economic development. Fontana is going to take its place as a leading city. With all the awards it has received, and there will be more, Fontana is an example of what the rest of the world will see when they look forward to California’s future.”
Warren grew up in South Central Los Angeles and attended Locke High School. She graduated from Occidental College with a degree in political science and urban studies. Before she advanced to the city council, she was a member of the Village of Heritage Citizens Landscaping Committee and was later a member of the city of Fontana General Plan Advisory Committee.