Musser Targeted For Recall

After serving on the city council since 1998 and as Upland mayor since 2011, Ray Musser this week was served with notice that some city residents are going to attempt to remove him from elected office.
Hal Tanner, a retired prison warden who was appointed to the city council advisory committee in 2013 and later resigned from that position because of his dissatisfaction with the direction the city council was mapping out for the city, served Musser with the recall papers through deputy city manager Jeannette Vagnozzi and then announced the recall attempt during the public comment session at the September 28 city council meeting.
“I volunteered to come here this evening to serve Mayor Musser with notice of recall,” Tanner said. “It is the first step.”
Tanner then trained his comments directly toward Musser. “I volunteered to serve you with this recall petition because I believe it will give every citizen in Upland an opportunity to decide if you should continue as our mayor,” Tanner said. “You have a great opportunity to showcase your leadership abilities and accomplishments. Mayor, blow your own horn, but blow it with the facts. Please accept my gratitude for your past service. I recognize that being a public servant can be a necessary but thankless task and I don’t know how you guys stomach it. I haven’t got the patience to sit up there nor the will to take the kind of abuse, some earned some unearned, that you take.”
Tanner indicated that he thought Musser should be relieved of command of the city because he is not responsive to those who elected him.
“Pope Francis recently said that the chief aim of all politics is the pursuit of the common good,” Tanner said. “I agree. You and I have been polar opposites for many years on many issues. For example, I believe every citizen has a right to petition. I believe that every citizen is to be governed by the rule of law. I believe that government should be open and transparent. Your position on these issues is needed. You need to show the people what you have done for the common good because you ignored my petitions. Mayor: how can we petition you? I’ve given you a hundred. I’ve given you [them] in writing. I’ve came here and presented them in person. You respond with silence. The council responds with silence. Please tell your constituents what ordinances, resolutions and policies you initiated and adopted that authorize citizens to petition.”
Tanner then referenced “the oath you took. I ask you to honor that oath. You’ve remained silent for too long. It’s time to present the evidence of your performance. You ignore petitions. You ignore the rule of law. You ignore the need for open government. You cannot and will not produce politics that support the common good.”
Tanner continued, “You wanted to lead Upland. Now show us how you’ve done the job. I appreciate your patience. I appreciate your consideration in listening to what I have to say. I don’t make the decision and it’s a long process before you get removed, if you get removed. And I wish you the best. Please, get out there and tell the people why you disagree with me, why we can’t have these rights.”
During the portion of the meeting devoted to council communication, Musser responded.
“Let’s talk about what came up tonight,” he said. “It didn’t surprise me whatsoever.”
The mayor said he believes he is being targeted because of his stand, with two of the other members of the council, in resisting a citizen-led effort to have the city permit medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in the city.
“Several months ago, whenever we voted on whether to put the initiative on, whether you remember that night, someone walked into my office while I was on the phone and very rudely said ‘I want to talk to you immediately.’ And I said ‘I’m on the phone. I’m busy.’ I never had met the person in my office. I knew of the person. After I got off the phone I went out into the hall and I asked someone to accompany me to the front of the building because I didn’t know what was coming. And I was threatened that day that if I didn’t vote for this marijuana initiative that I would be recalled but if I wanted to change my mind to say what is it that could do that, I don’t know anything better, or more accurate [in describing it than]  to [being subjected to an effort at] being bribed,” Musser said.
Musser said he resisted the pressure, telling those attending the meeting Monday night, “I said, ‘Absolutely, no. I am firm on that. I don’t want my children, my grandchildren, to be anywhere near that.’ The person got very angry. I thought I was going to be accosted right on the spot. He was in this building tonight. I didn’t say a word to anybody; I might have mentioned to someone that they tried to force me to change my mind. And this follow-up tonight with Mr. Tanner is the follow-through from that. Now it is several months later.”
According to Musser, “I have not been officially served. I did give the deputy city manager authorization to receive. So, technically she was. So that’s been cared for. We will react to that. The Lord will take care of it. We will proceed.”
Local politics is becoming very mean-spirited, the mayor said. “There’s a sort of cancer going on in the society,” Musser opined. “A lot of hate. You heard it tonight. Paul Eaton is being recalled, in the city of Montclair. I don’t know a better mayor in the area. I’ve worked with him for many, many years and closely for the last five years. He’s being recalled out of the blue.”
Those who signed the notice of intention to circulate the recall petition against Musser were Tanner, his wife Rosemary, Philip Velto, Rosemary Miller, Jeanette Sheets, James Sheets, Deanie Clutts, Neal Grabowski, Mary Ann McKamey, Sue Bunfiglio, Pam Hickok, Eileen Centonze, Jeralyn Robinson, Mary Grace Montes, Forest F. Jones, Frances T. Faciv, Juanita H. Karisaki, Patricia J. Lichti, Robin DeNegri, Christie McKinzie, Marc Grossman, Robert W. Logan, Eric R. Gavin, Cindy Gavin, Chuck Westgate, Kenneth C. Fath, Susan Fath, Nick Velto, Robert C. Velto, Carol Treichel, Gloria Velto, Andrea Vidaure, Diane Hester, Alicia Gilmer, Alexis Bail and Dr. J. Torres Cancino.
The grounds for seeking Musser’s recall mentioned in the notice refer to Musser as a “beneficiary of Mayor [John] Pomierski’s political machine” with a “far less discerning eye regarding the city’s finances.” It accuses him of being the “deciding vote to remove funding for Upland’s school crossing guard program in 2009” and “redirecting those funds to our former city manager [Robb] Quincey as a salary enhancement.” Moreover, according to the recall petition circulation notice, “He was the deciding vote to buy out city manager Stephen Dunn’s employment contract and to replace him with sitting city manager Rod Butler and an assistant city manager, costing the city an unnecessary $500,000 in a single vote.” The notice further accuses him of refusing to forego “generous benefits” conferred upon members of the city council.
At least some of that information is at a demonstrable variation to the facts. The first two years of Musser’s tenure on the council predated that of Pomierski, who was elected mayor in 2000. Relatively early on, Pomierski and Musser came to loggerheads and, at Pomierski’s direction, the balance of the city council joined with him in stripping Musser of his committee assignments and outside agency membership appointments. Musser emerged as Pomierski’s lone political rival on the council, opposing him in his race for reelection as mayor in both 2004 and 2008. Quincey, who was Pomierski’s handpicked city manager chosen to replace G. Michael Milhiser in 2005, was provided with eight contract enhancements during his time with the city, all of which were engineered by Pomierski and facilitated by then-city clerk Stephanie Mendenhall. At least four of those enhancements took place without a vote of the council and were illegally actuated by Pomierski’s unilateral action, again facilitated by Mendenhall in her role as city clerk, based upon Pomierski’s signature on documents ratifying the raises/benefit increases given Quincey. On two of the occasions when the council did vote to enhance Quincey’s contract, the vote was scheduled while Musser was absent, attending conventions out-of-state for the Health Underwriters Association.
Upon Pomierski’s indictment and resignation as mayor in 2011, Musser was elevated by his council colleagues to replace him as mayor, at least in part because he represented the starkest as well as the sole viable political alternative to the disgraced and discredited Pomierski then on the Upland scene.
Tanner has been critical of the way the city has been run for some time. In 2013, he was nominated by councilwoman Debbie Stone to fill the vacancy on the council advisory commission vacated when Glenn Bozar was elected to the council in November 2012. At that time, Musser supported Tanner’s appointment, though it was opposed by then-city councilman Brendan Brandt, who objected to the strident criticisms Tanner made of the city and some council actions, and his calls for the district attorney and the county grand jury to look into those matters.
On Thursday, Musser told the Sentinel that he saw irony in Tanner’s assertion that he, Musser, had obstructed residents in their efforts to obtain information, facilitate transparency and petition for government action.
“There was a time when I was close to him,” Musser said. “He asked for information and I gave him documents he requested. That upset some of the others on the council, who said I shouldn’t have been doing that. They accused me of being ‘buddies with Tanner.’ They believed I was giving him city documents in some cases where I did give them to him and they believed I was the source sometimes when I didn’t give them to him. Maybe if I had stayed buddies with him this wouldn’t have happened.”
Musser said that in dealing with Tanner he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. “You can’t meet him halfway,” Musser said. “He gets on a subject and he gnaws and gnaws at you until you reply or, if it is one of those situations where you can’t say anything, he gets tired and just goes away. But then you’ve made an enemy. Sometimes what he doesn’t get is these things are closed session matters and we can’t say anything. If he wants something the lawyer has told us not to discuss, you just can’t win.”

Leave a Reply