Lovingood Backs Off Threat To Sue County/City Agency He Heads

VICTORVILLE— (April 22) The specialized employment company owned by First District San Bernardino County Supervisor Robert Lovingood will not follow through with a lawsuit against the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority, as was previously implied by a claim  for more than $3 million filed by the firm’s attorney.
The contretemps between the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority and  Industrial Clerical Recruiters, Inc, which is owned by Robert Lovingood and known variously as ICR, ICR Staffing or ICR Staffing Services, Inc., has created a considerable stir, with charges of political conflict of interest, criminal conflict of interest, violations of the state of California’s prevailing wage law and the federal Davis-Bacon act, incompetence and political gamesmanship being bruited about the county.
In 2011, ICR competed in a bid process to obtain a two-year contractual arrangement with the Victor Valley Water Reclamation Agency  for the provision of workers to work on the Upper Narrows Pipeline project. That contract was entered into more than a year before Lovingood was elected as First District supervisor. The contract extended through a portion of 2011 and into 2012 and then to 2013. ICR was paid approximately $260,000 per year for the services its recruits provided.
Upon becoming supervisor in December 2012, Lovingood became a board member of the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority (VVWRA), as the authority’s charter and the joint powers agreement that formed the authority involving the cities of Victorville, Hesperia, Apple Valley and the county designates the county board member overseeing the Victor Valley as one of its directors.  In 2013, the contract came to a close and it was not renewed, though work on the pipeline project was not complete. In a bid competition that year, ICR lost out to Hesperia-based iLink Business Management, which offered to do the work at a lower rate than that bid by ICR.
In a claim dated  August  22, 2014 authored by ICR attorney Diane Carloni Nourse and served September 11, 2014, ICR Staffing Services alleged that VVWRA failed to pay prevailing wage to ICR’s contract workers between 2011 and 2013 and solicited ICR’s temporary employees to jump ship to iLink.
The Federal Davis-Bacon Act and California’s  prevailing wage law requires that workers on governmental projects be paid prevailing union scale wages. There is a question, however, of whether it is the responsibility of the government agency or the company employing the workers to meet the prevailing wage requirements. In the case of the ICR contract with VVWRA, ICR participated in a bidding process for the work, and obtained the contract on the basis of having submitted the lowest responsive bid.
Lovingood’s company filed the claim nearly a year after the two-year contract came to a close.
Carloni Nourse maintains that the ICR workers should have been paid prevailing union scale wages and that ICR should have been paid in excess of $1.5 million per year for the work. ICR further maintains that after the agency contracted with iLink, it attempted to lure ICR’s recruits to work for iLink.
Such claims are considered a precursor to a lawsuit. Upon a public agency’s rejection of a claim or after a failure to respond to the claim for 45 days, the claimant is eligible to initiate a lawsuit based on the issues raised in the claim.
Lovingood remained as a Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority board member until August 2013, at which point arrangements were made to substitute Lovingood’s colleague on the board of supervisors, James Ramos, in as the VVWRA board member to replace him. Ramos represents the county’s Third District, which does not include the Victor Valley. Some have questioned the legality of the arrangement by which Ramos has replaced Lovingood on the authority board.
ICR’s threat of a lawsuit against the authority resulted in severe complication for Lovingood. Former Victorville councilwoman Angela Valles lodged a complaint with the FBI and the district attorney’s office, alleging a criminal conflict of interest inherent in a former authority board member having made a monetary claim against the authority. Moreover, since Lovingood was the owner, president and chief executive officer of ICR when it entered into what the company now claims was an illegal arrangement with the Victor Valley Water Reclamation Authority, his judgment, acumen and intention, not to mention his knowledge of the law, was called into question.
Despite ICR’s $3.62 million claim and its assertion that the 2011 contract had been awarded under “a wrongful bid process,” ICR this week gave indication it would not file a lawsuit over the matter. Rather, in an abrupt reversal, through public statements attributed to Lovingood’s wife, Melanie, who is now serving as ICR president, the company announced its intention to place ICR workers into temporary or other positions with the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority in the future by competing in a marketplace that features wages well below prevailing union scale.
That statement, contained in the Victorville Daily Press, said ICR would respond to requests for bids from the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority with “our best service and our best prices.”

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