SB & Victorville Lock In New & Old City Managers For One and Four Years

San Bernardino County’s largest and fifth largest cities have taken significant action with regard to their respective city manager slots.
On Monday, the San Bernardino City Council unanimously voted to secure the services of Burbank City Manager Mark Scott to serve as city manager in the 213,000-population San Bernardino County seat for at least one year, effective February 8.
There has been a vacuum at the senior staff level at San Bernardino City Hall since last month, when Allen Parker, who technically remains as city manager, forged an agreement accepted in a closed session at the November 16 meeting that essentially provided him with a year’s salary and medical benefits for himself and his wife in return for his leaving the city without further ado, effective December 31.
Parker, who had been hired in March 2013 in the aftermath of the departures of former city manager Charles McNeeley and interim city manager Andrea Travis-Miller and the city’s August 2012 filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, was given relatively high marks by even those who were critical of him in his handling of the city‘s bankruptcy exit effort, which has been dogged by the city’s continuing financial challenges and the seeming inability of the accounting firms the city had hired to wade through existing municipal documentation and complete audits of the city’s 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15 budgets.
Parker had been hired during the last year of former mayor Patrick Morris’s eight-year tenure as mayor and though he and Morris’s successor, Carey Davis, appeared to be on the same page with regard to significantly reducing municipal expenses through drastic cuts in personnel as well as salary and benefit reductions for remaining employees, the relationship between Parker and Davis soured in December 2014 when Parker balked at endorsing Davis’s bid to keep Mike McKinney as Davis’s chief of staff. Their relationship never seemed to recover and Parker grew more and more disengaged in his function at City Hall, a development that resulted in councilman Henry Nickel becoming disillusioned with Parker. The continuous lack of coordination between Parker and Davis resulted in a state of malaise within San Bernardino City government that, according to Nickel, became untenable.
At the December 7 meeting of the San Bernardino City Council, city attorney Gary Saenz offered this terse statement: “I’m announcing that on November 16, 2015 the mayor and council voted 4-3, councilpersons Nickel, [Virginia] Marquez and [James] Mulvihill voting no, to approve a transition agreement and mutual release between the city and Allen Parker, our city manager, in exchange for a mutual release of claims and the resignation of Allen Parker. The terms of the agreement were as follows: 1) 12 months of base salary payable in equal installments beginning January 15, 2016 and ending in December 2016; 2) continuance of health insurance for 12 months from the resignation date; 3) a resignation date of December 31, 2015. The agreement was signed by Mr. Parker and the city on November 23, 2015.”
Within two weeks, the council had collectively resolved to fill Parker’s shoes with Scott. The council appeared relatively enthusiastic about making a new start with Scott at the city’s helm and some even expressed confidence that Scott’s strength of personality and willingness to assert his bureaucratic and personal authority would be a benefit to the city. Nevertheless, there was an overriding sense that Scott’s selection was a marriage of convenience between a rudderless municipal operation and a veteran and well-traveled top city administrator who was on the brink of bailing out of his current assignment in Burbank.
Indeed, it was that strength of personality and his assertiveness with his political masters on the Burbank council that had led to Scott’s tenuous position there.
The same night of the meeting in San Bernardino at which Parker’s departure was arranged behind closed doors, the Burbank City Council held a marathon meeting that lasted for more than six hours and stretched into the wee hours of November 17. It was at that point, over what for many would not have appeared to be major issue that would create any kind of contretemps that Scott took a stand – involving administrative and control brinkmanship – that precipitated a fracture with a faction of the Burbank council.
That matter related to the creation of a new job title and salary range for an administrative position in the public works department including a raise in salary from $140,000 to $154,000 per year, which had thrice come before the council without being resolved. And while this adjustment to the city’s personnel hierarchy and chain of command is not the sort of bureaucratic hill most city managers are willing to die on, Scott had informed Burbank Mayor Bob Frutos that if the council did not approve the item, he would submit his letter of resignation.
When Councilman David Gordon, who had previously cast a crucial vote in support of making the change in the public works administrative position title and salary advocated by Scott, rescinded his vote because he said he had previously supported it when he actually intended to vote against it, the matter was brought back for a vote. When the matter was voted upon, it failed by a 3-2 vote. In its aftermath, Scott questioned the council’s rationale for not backing his decisions with regard to the administration of the city, including personnel decisions. Upon hearing from the council that some had questions about the salary level and the transparency of the process, Scott publicly stated that he “got the message from three of you, loud and clear and that’s all I need to hear.”
Though he did not say explicitly in public that he was resigning, Scott’s statement with regard to having gotten the message was a code to the council that he was quitting. Subsequently, Scott stated publicly that he was not resigning but instead retiring, though he did not specify a date. Upon his hiring by the city council in San Bernardino, it was disclosed that his last day in Burbank will be February 7.
Whether his bristling at what might be termed as “close council oversight” or “council micromanaging” in Burbank presages difficulty in San Bernardino is an open question. San Bernardino is a charter city and its charter contains some very rare if not unique provisions which instill in the mayor an administrative authority uncommon or unheard of in most other California cities. Given the manner in which Davis and Parker were at loggerheads the final 12 months of Parker’s residency on the sixth floor at City Hall and the near state of paralysis that left the city in, a key question is how well Scott and Davis will be able to cooperate and function in synchronicity, or at least coexist without stepping all over one another.
Scott’s contract runs for one year into February 2017 but has a 30-day notice to terminate and specifies a yearly salary of $248,000, with the same benefits as other members of the management/confidential bargaining group. In Burbank, Scott is making $52,000 more per year than he will make in San Bernardino: $300,000 per year plus benefits. San Bernardino will pay Scott $19,000 per year more than it was paying Parker.
In addition to the $248,000 per year – equivalent to $20,666.66 per month – to be paid to Scott plus the standard management benefits, the city is going to pay his relocation costs. The city’s charter requires that the city manager live in the city. The city waived that requirement for Parker, but it became a problem issue, with many of the city’s critics referencing his non-residential status in charging that he was insensitive to a host of issues relating to quality of life in the city.
Parker has already departed from City Hall and this week deputy city manager Bill Manis was filling in for him. To cover Parker’s function from now until February 7, the council has selected police chief Jarrod Burguan to serve as interim city manager, consenting to boost his salary by just under $1,000 for the month of January to $19,14.88 to compensate him for his added duties.
Forty-two miles north, in 115,903-population Victorville, the city council there extended city manager Doug Robertson’s contract, which expired in June, another four years, through June 2019. The contract raises his yearly salary to $262,500.
Robertson had gone four years without a raise. He was previously drawing $225,000 per year in salary. The contract calls for an annual performance evaluation. It permits the city, by means of a simple majority vote, to terminate Robertson at any time prior to the end of the contract on the proviso that it confer upon him a 12-month severance package. That proviso does not apply if the reason for termination cites him with having committed a crime or activity involving self-enrichment.
The city council formed a two member committee to determine a fair compensation level for Robertson and negotiate an offer he would accept. The council approved the offer, which Robertson deemed acceptable, last week on a 4-0 vote with councilman Eric Negrete abstaining.
Robertson’s duties as city manager have intensified since April 29, 2013, when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil suit alleging the city, assistant city manager Keith Metzler, the Southern California Logistics Airport Authority and bond underwriter Kinsell, Newcomb & De Dios defrauded investors by grossly inflating the value of four hangars at Souther California Logistics Airport in a 2008 municipal bond offering. As a consequence of the SEC action, Metzler’s attention has been compromised by having to concentrate from time to time on his legal defense, resulting in an intensification of Robertson’s workload.

Presiding Judge Slough Elevated To Appellate Court

Governor Jerry Brown this week elevated San Bernardino County Presiding Judge Marsha G. Slough to the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Riverside.
Slough, who was appointed to the Superior Court by Governor Gray Davis in 2003, has served as presiding judge in San Bernardino County since 2012.
Slough, a Democrat, submitted an application for the appointment earlier this year. Brown’ gave her the nod on the basis of a positive evaluation completed by the Judicial Nomination Evaluation Committee as well as her role in managing the San Bernardino County court system in accordance with financial constraints imposed upon it by Sacramento.
According to California’s Judicial Needs Assessment, San Bernardino County should have 156 judges. At the same time, the state has authorized 91 judges to serve on the courts located in San Bernardino County but has provided funding for only 86.
“We have more than fifty percent fewer employees – judges and staff – than we need,” Slough told the Sentinel in 2014. “This is a horrific situation. It is remarkable, to be honest with you, that we are still functioning and meeting our statutory requirements.”
The state’s parsimony with regard to the court system is reflected in the reductions made to the San Bernardino County Court’s budget. In 2008-09, the court system in San Bernardino County was provided with $110 million to carry out its operations. By 2012-13, the money supplied by the state to the county court system dropped precipitously to $84 million.
Slough initially dealt with the budgetary limitations imposed on the court system by the governor and the legislature by extending the consolidations and court closures initiated by her predecessor as presiding judge, Ronald M. Christianson. Their combined program entailed shuttering the Needles courthouse at the county’s northeast end, the closure of the Chino courthouse at the county’s southwest end, the closure of courthouses in the San Bernardino Mountain communities and the removal of civil cases from the Victorville and Joshua Tree courthouses and the closure of the county’s northernmost courthouse, located in Barstow. Under pressure, Slough consented to reopening the Barstow courthouse three days a week for traffic cases but that was followed up with Slough’s coup de grâce, a comprehensive court realignment effectuated in 2014 after the completion of the San Bernardino Justice Center, an eleven story edifice with 40 courtrooms in downtown San Bernardino. Under the terms of Slough’s realignment, all civil cases countywide were transferred to the newly-constructed Justice Center, which also became the venue for San Bernardino district criminal cases, which had formerly been heard in the San Bernardino Central Courthouse built in 1927. The West Valley Superior Courthouse in Rancho Cucamonga, which had been a venue for both civil and criminal cases originating on the west end of the county, was devoted primarily to criminal cases, including those arising on the county’s west end and other felony and misdemeanor cases from the county’s central district which had been heard at the Fontana Courthouse. A small portion of the criminal cases formerly heard in Fontana were also re-venued to San Bernardino. Rancho Cucamonga’s West Valley Courthouse also became the forum for hearings on both civil and domestic violence restraining orders. The historic San Bernardino Courthouse was kept in service as the forum for the family law cases it had traditionally hosted along with the family law cases previously heard in Rancho Cucamonga.
The Fontana Courthouse became the stage for all small claims, landlord tenant disputes and traffic/non-traffic infractions from the San Bernardino, Fontana and Rancho Cucamonga districts.
The realignment was highly unpopular with attorneys and county residents in a county that at 20,105 square miles is the largest in the lower 48 states, with a land area larger than that of New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island combined. In some cases, county residents are obliged to endure the hardship of driving interminably long distances to attend court. Driving distance from Needles to San Bernardino is 212 miles, with an average one-way traveling time of three hours and nine minutes. The driving distance from Trona to San Bernardino is 134 miles with a one-way traveling time of two hours and 20 minutes. It is a 71 mile drive from Barstow to San Bernardino with an average traveling time of one hour and 20 minutes. It is a 90 mile drive from Twentynine Palms to San Bernardino, with a typical traveling time of one hour and 45 minutes. It is a 40 mile drive to San Bernardino from Chino Hills, entailing 47 minutes of commuting time under good highway conditions and as much as an hour and 30 minutes during rush hour.
Nevertheless, Brown’s measure of Slough’s success did not extend to considerations of the inconveniences to which the county’s citizens have been put as a result of Slough’s economies but rather her ability to simply keep the justice system operational in San Bernardino County.
Slough, 57 of Redlands, received an undergraduate degree in liberal studies from Ottawa University in Kansas, where she attended on a basketball scholarship. She obtained her Juris Doctor from Whittier Law School.
Early in her career, as an associate with the firm Welebir & McCune in Redlands and then with the firm of Markman, Arczynski, Hanson, Curley and Slough in Brea, she practiced primarily in the arenas of automobile insurance and product liability defense. In 2002, she formed a partnership with Jeffrey Raynes and represented personal injury and medical malpractice plaintiffs.

Russian Rocket Reentry On Tuesday Lights Up Southern California Night Sky

A Russian rocket streaked across the Southern California sky Tuesday night, creating a fireball that plummeted in a gradual downward arc that remained visible for a half of a minute.
Initially identified as a meteor by astronomers, the object was subsequently disclosed to be the booster of an SL-4 rocket re-entering the earth’s atmosphere after powering a payload put into orbit by the Russians following a launch on Monday, December 21.
The white-hot streak followed by a tail raining illuminated debris appeared out of the north and moved in a southerly direction with a calculated terminus somewhere in the neighborhood of the Gulf of California in Baja California.
Reports were that it was also visible, from varying angles of perspective, in Nevada and Arizona.
According to the U.S. Strategic Command, the rocket body reentered the atmosphere over Arizona at 7:08 p.m. Atmospheric drag and aerodynamic heating resulted in the progressive disintegration of the rocket and its accompanying bright glow.

State Gives Reprieve To Yucca Valley On Wastewater Deadline

By Mark Gutglueck

YUCCA VALLEY—The California Regional Water Quality Control Board has given the community of Yucca Valley a reprieve from the previous unforgiving timeline it had imposed on the town and its residents to end their reliance on septic systems and construct a municipal sewer system.
Yucca Valley, which became the last of San Bernardino County’s 24 municipalities to incorporate in 1991, is likewise the last of two remaining cities in the county to function without a sewer system.
As early as 1973, eighteen years before incorporation and when the area’s population was hovering below 5,000, there was a push to outfit the core of Yucca Valley with a rudimentary sewer system, one that would extend only to the town’s modest commercial area and the relatively sparse residential neighborhoods that surrounded it. But a water treatment facility and skeleton sewer system to which future developments could connect carried a price tag of roughly $10 million, well beyond the tiny community’s fiscal means at that time.
After the town’s November 1991 incorporation, civic officials continued to reflect and embody the values of their constituents, who eschewed big government and excessive regulation and put a premium on maintaining the town’s rural character. There was little collective will to pave any roads other than the town’s main thoroughfares and many town streets remain dusty trails to this day.Likewise, a modern, urban sewer system has been an imperative to few locals. At the same time, the town council has been accommodating of most developers who expressed an interest in Yucca Valley, and over the first 20 years of the town’s history as an incorporated entity, gave builders what has essentially been carte blanche to build aggressively without incorporating urban land use standards.
Thus, the septic systems that had proliferated in Yucca Valley for three-quarters of a century remained the accoutrement of homes and businesses built within the 40 square mile city limits.
Ten years after incorporation Yucca Valley’s officials were notified by the state’s Regional Water Quality Control Board that the lack of a sewage treatment system had resulted in nitrates accumulating in the water table. Simultaneously, the Hi-Desert Water District, which serves the Yucca Valley community, experienced nitrate traces in district wells.
Local officialdom did not respond with alacrity. Rather, some feigned outrage that the state felt it necessary to involve itself in what many perceived as a local issue. Much of the local population consisted of senior citizens and retirees living on fixed incomes as well as working age adults with diminished incomes who had been attracted to the area by cheap land and housing prices. They were alarmed by the concept of having to defray the cost of installing a sewer system. They were heartened and to a certain extent lulled into a state of complacency by their political leadership, which asserted the town would not fall victim to overreaching regulation imposed on it by Sacramento. Thus, the water table contamination issue was kicked down the road.
In the early 2000s, monitoring carried out by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board and the United States Geological Survey demonstrated that residues left in the ground that seep into the aquifer had increased to levels that presaged health threats if the matter was not addressed. Those contaminants included nitrates and other pollutants including pharmaceuticals and salts.
Historic pumping increases from the 1940s to 1995 resulted in the water levels dropping faster than the nitrates from septic systems seeped downward. Thus, for years Yucca Valley was able to avoid the consequences of the contamination accumulating in the local soil. Eventually, however, as the water table dropped lower and lower as a result of greater utilization combined with limited recharge from rainfall, the water district began importation of state aqueduct water into Yucca Valley. Completion of the Morongo Basin Pipeline project and the accompanying completion and activation of recharge basins in Yucca Valley allowed the Hi-Desert Water District to begin percolating water into the aquifer and the water table began to rise. That water came in contact with the high levels of nitrates left over from decades of septic discharge and the nitrates found their way into some of the Hi-Desert Water District’s wells. Notice of the contamination triggered a scaling back of the Hi-Desert Water District’s recharge efforts, and the goal of reestablishing the Yucca Valley water table to the natural level present in the 1940s has not been achieved.
The imported water has actually diluted the nitrates so water tests now show nitrate levels below the maximum contaminant level allowed by the state and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In the meantime, the discharge of septic waste continues and the United States Geological Survey determined that nitrates accumulating beneath Yucca Valley are present in ever increasing concentrations and at depths that pose a threat to the groundwater, including a calculation that 880 acre-feet of septic discharge currently reaches the groundwater every year.
In 2007, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, the state agency responsible for protecting water quality, adopted a resolution identifying the town of Yucca Valley as one of 66 communities throughout the state with groundwater threatened by the continuing overuse of septic systems. The board further declared Yucca Valley as a top priority for eliminating the use of septic systems, meaning Yucca Valley’s is one of the five most seriously threatened significantly-sized water supplies in the state.
Nevertheless, local officials resisted taking immediate action, as they lacked the financial wherewithal to undertake the construction of a sewer system. Nor did the city have the will to impose any kind of building or development moratorium that would stabilize the problem.
For a while, town and the water district officials were able to delay the imposition of state mandates by forging a memorandum of agreement with the Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Hi-Desert Water District to allow interim permits for new septic systems while planning for a wastewater system proceeded. But they could not suspend the consequences indefinitely.
By 2010, Yucca Valley’s population had zoomed to 20,700, an increase of 3,835 or 22.7 percent over the 16,865 town residents counted in the 2000 Census.
In 2011, the town was firmly informed that it had only five years to take a definitive step toward water quality compliance.
The Regional Water Quality Control Board at that time imposed three progressive phases of septic discharge prohibitions on Yucca Valley. Under the state mandate, phase 1 of a wastewater system was to be completed or significantly on its way to completion by May 19, 2016 or enforcement action would be initiated. The first phase of the project is to cover the downtown area of Yucca Valley, the area most proximate to the heart of the groundwater basin. Similarly, phase 2 must be completed or nearly completed by May 19, 2019 and phase 3 must be completed by May 19, 2022. The last two phases lie further out where future concentrated development is most likely to occur.
The state vowed to use draconian measures to obtain compliance, by either methodically moving to seal off every septic system in use within each of the specified areas, essentially rendering the affected homes inhabitable, or to otherwise utilize a tactic similar to what had been employed against Los Osos, another community that failed to come into compliance after repeated warnings from the state. In Los Osos, the entire community became subject to an enforcement action, which was done in a lottery fashion, in which random property owners were selected to receive cease and desist orders with the potential of daily fines for non-compliance. They were ordered to discontinue the discharge from their septic systems, seal them off and pump them at regular intervals. If they did not, they were subjected to fines of up to $5,000 per day.
The state’s threat of action carried with it the very real possibility that Yucca Valley would be rendered a ghost town by the end of the current decade. And still, for three years after the state mandate was given, local officials dithered, with little in the way of tangible progress being made other than determining that a water treatment plant and a collection system entailing over 400,000 linear feet of pipe would at a minimum be needed to satisfy the state demand, together with having undertaken an effort to inform local residents of the problem and having completed cost comparisons on paper. The primary cost projection identified the difference between having a contractor undertake building the system and having the water district manage the project – between $133,248,401 and $140,651,089 for the design and construction work to be performed by Atkins North America and somewhere between $111,539,901 and $117,736,562 for the district to construct the project using Atkins North America’s proposed design.
One major challenge facing the city was the bifurcation of responsibility, i.e., governmental authority, particularly as applies to the delivery of water to the populace and the corresponding requirement of maintaining water quality. Yucca Valley is far from being a full service municipality. It does not have its own police department, instead contracting with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement service. Nor does it boast its own fire department. Rather, there are three fire stations in town run by the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District and one station operated by the California Division of Forestry. Similarly, Yucca Valley does not have its own municipal water division. Rather, that function is carried out by the Hi-Desert Water District.
Planning and building authority in Yucca Valley lies with the town. The town council has been filled with elected officials who reflect the town populace’s attitude with regard to outside control such as that emanating from the state, and the town has effectively resisted calls to impose a building moratorium until the water contamination issue is resolved.
On the water district side of the equation, things are even more complicated. A member of the Hi-Desert Water District’s board of directors is Roger Mayes. A domineering personality, Mayes for many years was the chairman of the water board. The pastor of Grace Community Church, Mayes exhibits a political philosophy that holds true Americanism is equivalent to conservatism, such that Republican values need to be upheld in the face of the social liberalism and big and intrusive government philosophy of the Democrats.
That the mandate for Yucca Valley to end its dependence on septic systems originated in Democratic-dominated Sacramento has not been lost on Mayes. That he has long occupied a key position on the water board explicates to some extent why it is that the Yucca Valley community has not reacted with a sense of urgency in coming to terms with the state mandate. It is the Hi-Desert Water District rather than the town that was chosen to serve as lead agency on the construction of the sewer system. Because the political leadership of the water agency is philosophically opposed to the concept of showing obeisance to state officials, and in particular state officials who are under the control of the Democratic Party, the water district was far less energetic in facilitating the completion of the water treatment system than it might have been otherwise.
Ultimately, however, Roger Mayes’ resistance to completing the Yucca Valley sewer system would be attenuated by two factors.
The first factor was the utter seriousness with which the state was militating toward the sanctions it threatened in the absence of Yucca Valley’s failure to undertake the project. The second factor, ironically, was an outgrowth of Mayes’ own reach toward political control of the desert town. In his effort to establish a semi-theocratic and Republican-oriented dominion in Yucca Valley, Mayes joined forces with the Reverend Jerel Hagerman, the pastor of Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel. Together, using their respective powers of the pulpit, Mayes and Hagerman became the virtual co-regents of Yucca Valley. With their sermons setting the spiritual and moral tone of the town, they were able to define Yucca Valley’s political tenor as well. Their shared born-again zealotry naturally dovetailed with a conservative political ethos that carried itself beyond the two or so hours they had the attention of their parishioners on Sunday, and in time it moved into the halls of power down at Yucca Valley’s civic center. Both preachers were instrumental in launching the political careers of their sons, each of whom served on the Yucca Valley Town Council.
Isaac Hagerman, Jerel’s son, was a member of the town council that effectively ignored or resisted for so long the state’s dire warnings with regard to the deterioration in the quality of the town’s water supply and championed the further growth of Yucca Valley by providing developers with virtually unfettered permission to build aggressively without incorporating urban land use standards.
Even more successful than Isaac Hagerman was Mayes’ son, Chad, who was elected to the town council and then moved into the mayorship. Espousing conservative Republican values all the way, Chad Mayes established himself as something of a young up-and-comer in the GOP, forming a close alliance with Paul Cook, the Yucca Valley mayor-turned-state assemblyman-turned-congressman. In 2010, after eight years on the town council, he resigned from that position to become chief of staff to San Bernardino County Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford, a Republican herself. In 2014, he vied successfully for 42nd District Assemblyman.
In Sacramento, the governor’s mansion is occupied by a Democrat and the State Senate and State Assembly were occupied by a supermajority of Democrats – which essentially rendered Republicans an irrelevancy in statehouse – until the filing of criminal political corruption charges against three Democratic state legislators ended their party’s absolute power grip over California a year ago. Still, the Democrats remain firmly in charge in the state capital. Since arriving their late last year, young Mayes has been given a strong dose of political reality. While the exact nature of his private conversations with his father are unknown, on his trips back to his district from the state capital he has apparently been able to convince the Reverend Mayes that people in Yucca Valley cannot continue to micturate and defecate in their drinking water supply, that continuing to insist they can do just that is a threat to not only the community’s health but its reputation statewide and that the rural standards of public hygiene that were applied in a remote desert location in the middle of the Twentieth Century will not suffice as that community urbanizes in the Twenty-First Century.
In 2012, Yucca Valley voters, yet under the sway of Mayes and Hagerman’s vision of their town as a bastion of right thinking fundamentalist Christian conservatives holding the line against the encroachment of secular liberalism, rejected Measure U, which if passed would have imposed a one-cent sales tax within Yucca Valley, the lion’s share of the proceeds from which would have, town officials said, gone toward building the sewer system.
Earlier this year, Roger Mayes did not oppose an effort to form an assessment district to build the town’s sewer system. By a significant margin, Yucca Valley voters passed the measure, which was conducted by mail ballot voting.
On the May 13 deadline for the return of the ballots, 5,488 of the 10,326 ballots mailed out had been returned. Of those 5,488 ballots received, 4,942 were deemed valid, with 546 being rejected because the ballots were improperly filled out.
The tallying of the ballots was not based upon the simple number of votes for or against approving the sewer system assessments. Rather, each of the ballots was accorded weight based on the proposed assessment value of the property owned by the voter. Under this measure, 72 percent of those responding, representing $49.1 million in estimated property value, favored the levying of the assessments, while 28 percent, speaking for $18.9 million in property value, voted against the formation of the district.
The community’s relatively late resolve to fund the sewer system project left it somewhat behind the eight ball in terms of whether it would be able to meet the first May 2016 deadline.
The State Water Resources Control Board, examining the reality of the situation, has concluded that the Hi-Desert Water District will not be able to complete enough of the project to allow any part of the community to stop septic discharge anytime soon. Recognizing, however, that the Yucca Valley community, by means of the May vote, has begun the process of designing and building the system, the State Water Resources Control Board dispensed with the May 2016 deadline and extended the deadline for the first phase’s completion until June 30, 2021.
Town and water district officials were notified of the extension by Water Quality Control Board Interim Executive Officer Jose Angel.
In addition, the Water Quality Control Board extended and consolidated the May 19, 2019 and May 19, 2022 deadlines for completion of phase two and phase three of the sewer system to December 31, 2025. The boundaries for all three phases were also provided with minor adjustments.
Angel said the state was making the extensions in a spirit of cooperation and compliance.

Twenty-one More Inmates File Federal Suits Over Abusive Treatment At West Valley Jail

Twenty-one more current or former inmates at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga have lodged federal lawsuits alleging deputies there engaged in a pattern of sadistic abuse and the administration of summary punishment.
The lawsuits in some measure parallel five lawsuits filed within the last 19 months against the county, the sheriff’s department, sheriff John McMahon and a number of McMahon’s deputies. Two of those lawsuits by six and four current and former inmates respectively at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga were filed on their behalf by attorneys attorneys Stanley Hodge, Jim Terrell and Sharon Brunner in May 2014, the same lawyers who filed the two most recent suits on December 10. In October 2014 American Civil Liberties Union Attorney Melissa Goodman and the law firm Kaye, McLane, Bednarski & Litt filed suit on behalf of another 15 current and former inmates at West Valley, alleging systematic abuse by jailers.
The two latest lawsuits, the third and fourth filed by the team of Hodge, Terrell and Brunner consist of a lawsuit filed on behalf of a single inmate, David Smith, and another lawsuit with 20 other inmates as plaintiffs.
Both lawsuits cite more than 30 defendants, including ones who are fully identified, partially identified or not yet identified, while alleging both abuse by deputies and those deputies’ and their supervisors’ denial of the inmates’ grievance rights, including failure to provide them with grievance forms as well as threatening them with retaliation if they were to persist in their attempts to report the abuse.
Physical abuse ranged from physical beatings to using a Taser gun to torture inmates, sexual battery and the refusal to provide medical care.
In January 2015, Eric Smith, an inmate at West Valley who was given trustee status as a meal server within the jail, filed a lawsuit alleging he was subjected to repeated jolts from Tasers on multiple occasions as well as sleep deprivation and calculated psychological torture.
The collection of lawsuits comes against a backdrop of an external FBI investigation, a grand jury inquiry and an internal sheriff’s department investigation that has already resulted in indications that abuse was ongoing. In March 2014, four sheriff’s department employees working at the jail were witnessed being “walked off” the premises by FBI agents.
At least seven deputies who worked at the West Valley Detention Center – Brock Teyechea, Andrew Cruz and Nicholas Oakley, Robert Escamilla, Russell Kopasz, Robert Morris and Eric Smale – have been fired. Two civilian jailers with the last names of Stockman and Neil were identified in the original lawsuit filed in May 2014 as having participated in the abuse. Their status at the jail is not known. Another deputy alleged to have participated in the abuse is one identified only by the last name of Macias.
Some, though not all, of the plaintiffs were in custody awaiting trial on charges of having engaged in heinous acts, and the lawsuits suggest their jailers may have singled them out for mistreatment. One of those was a Lake Arrowhead man accused of drugging and raping a 17-year-old girl. David Smith, the plaintiff in one of the suits filed on December 10, has been charged with first-degree murder in the 2008 execution-style slayings of a teenage couple in an abandoned Air Force bunker near Barstow. In Smith’s suit, Hodge, Terrell and Brunner maintain that in 2009 Smith was first subjected to unnecessary blasts from a Taser gun, with one deputy alone shocking Smith more than 70 times. According to the suit, in late November or early December 2013, three deputies simultaneously trained their Tasers on Smith, shocking him on both legs and his shoulder, rendering him temporarily paralyzed.
Because of the grand jury proceedings and the ongoing FBI investigation, all seven court cases have been put on hold, pending the outcome of the federal government’s efforts. If an indictment of any sheriff’s department personnel ensues, the legal position of the plaintiffs may be strengthened.
Hodge is a former Superior Court judge as well as a prosecutor with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, where three decades ago he prosecuted cases prepared by the sheriff’s department.
San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon has said he is committed to rooting out abusive deputies and that aberational incidents are not an indication of a systemic problem within his jails. Rather, he has suggested, California Legislature-mandated prison realignment, which went into effect in 2011, has caused both inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-deputy violence to increase, resulting in a spike in the application of force against inmates.

San Bernardino Picks Up Slack In Funding Job Training After State Balks

At city expense, the San Bernardino City Council this week voted to extend for at least three more months funding for the operations of the San Bernardino Employment and Training Agency.
The San Bernardino Employment and Training Agency for 40 years has served as the city’s employment and training services provider for the purpose of implementing federally-funded workforce investment programs. The city previously received funding from the United States Department of Labor for the San Bernardino Employment and Training Agency’s operations. The funding is administered by the California Employment Development Department.
In October 2014, the California Employment Development Department placed the city on cash hold due to the city’s failure to submit a timely single audit of its federally-funded programs. A local entity that receives federal funding is required to submit a single audit annually, covering all its federal programs and showing how the funds were spent. Pass-through recipients of federal funds, such as the California Employment Development Department, are required to impose sanctions, which can include cash holds, on local entities that do not complete their single audits on time.
The city’s single audits for the years ended June 30, 2013 and 2014 are currently overdue. Hence, the cash hold has remained in place and the city has received no funds from the California Employment Development Department since October 2014. In the interim, the city has funded the San Bernardino Employment and Training Agency from other sources.
As a result of the delayed single year audits, the California State Board and the governor denied the San Bernardino Employment and Training Agency’s application for re-designation as a local workforce investment area.
The only basis stated by the California Employment Development Department for the cash hold when it was imposed in October 2014 was the delinquent 2013 single audit. More recently, however, when city officials asked the California Employment Development Department to confirm that the cash hold would be released upon the submission of the delinquent audits, the California Employment Development Department stated it might not release the cash hold if the audits had “systemic” adverse findings such as those contained in the 2012 single audit. An email from the California Employment Development Department staff attorney from August 2015 stated, “systemic material findings resulting from the single audits that are currently in process could result in the cash hold not being lifted.”
It is anticipated that the 2013 and 2014 audits will contain systemic adverse findings, but that the city will be able to demonstrate that action has been taken to redress the problems. In the interim, the Workforce Investment Act, through which previous funding for the agency was provided, was replaced by a new federal law, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014, effective July 1, 2015.
The city applied to receive funding under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 but was initially rejected by the state due to the cash hold and overdue audits. The City of San Bernardino appealed the rejection and the hearing officer handling the appeal concluded in a decision and recommendation dated November 12, 2015 that the cash hold and audits were not a legal basis for rejecting the City’s the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 application.
The San Bernardino Employment and Training Agency also obtained opinion letters, dated July 27 and September 17, 2015, from Rochelle Daniels, an attorney specializing in workforce matters, concerning the city’s likelihood of obtaining reimbursement of funds expended to fund the San Bernardino Employment and Training Agency pending the submission of the overdue audits. Daniels concluded that the City of San Bernardino should expect to be reimbursed for the money it spent to fund the San Bernardino Employment and Training Agency prior to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 taking effect, and might expect to be reimbursed for money spent after that time if it won its appeal, which, the city eventually did.
The most recent communication from the state concerning the cash hold is a November 17, 2015 letter from the state labor secretary directing that the city be conditionally designated to receive funding under Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014, but threatening adverse action, including defunding, if the audit requirements and other fiscal requirements are not satisfied.
The city is sustaining costs of approximately $125,000 per month in keeping the San Bernardino Employment and Training Agency up and running.
After hearing a report on the matter and discussing what action to take, the council, on a motion by councilman Rikke Van Johnson, voted to continue the funding for three more months while seeking reimbursement from the state.

Forum… Or Against ’em

By Count Friedrich von Olsen

In Iceland Christmas is called Jóladagur and is usually celebrated with the extended family. The main Yule meal is ‘Hangikjöt’, a leg of roast lamb. Sometimes Icelanders will also roast the seabird rock ptarmigan, which they call ‘Rjúpa’ as the main course of their Christmas feast. An element of the Icelandic Yule meal is Laufabrauð or leaf bread, thin sheets of dough cut into delicate patterns and fried…
French homes often feature a Nativity crib, which features clay figures such as lambs and cows, the Three Wise Men, Joseph, Mary and the Enfant Wunderliebe along with priests, chandlers, butchers, bakers and gendarmes. During December some towns and cities, as for example Marseilles, have fairs at which Nativity figures are sold…
Yule logs made out of cherry wood are often burned in French homes. The log is carried into the home on Christmas Eve and is sprinkled with red wine, which lends a pleasant fragrance to the the log as it burns. There is a custom that the log and candles are left burning all night with some food and drinks left out in case Mary and the baby Jesus come past during the night…
In France, Santa Claus is called Père Noël (Father Christmas)…
The main Christmas meal, called Réveillon, is eaten on Christmas Eve/early Christmas morning after people have returned from the midnight church service. Réveillon typically features roast turkey with chestnuts or roast goose, oysters, foie gras, lobster, venison and cheeses. For dessert, a chocolate sponge cake log called a bûche de Noël is normally eaten…
Christmas in Austria really starts around four in the afternoon of Christmas Eve (‘Heilige Abend’) when the tree is lit for the first time and people come to sing carols around the tree. The most famous carol is Silent Night (‘Stille Nacht’), which was written in Austria in 1818…
Traditionally the Christmas tree is left outside the house and is not brought in and decorated until Christmas Eve. Decorations include candles and sparklers. For children, other important decorations are sweets such as small liqueur-filled chocolate bottles, chocolates of various kinds, jelly rings and Windbäckerei (meringue, usually in the form of rings, stars, that sort of thing…
Some children are taught to believe that the Christkind, a golden-haired baby, with wings, decorates the tree and brings presents to children on Christmas Eve and leaves them under the tree… .
The main Christmas meal is actually eaten on Christmas Eve. It’s often ‘Gebackener Karpfen’ (fried carp) as the main course because Christmas Eve was considered a fasting day by many Catholics when no meat should be eaten. However ‘Weihnachtsgans’ (roast goose) and roast turkey are becoming more popular. Dessert can be chocolate and apricot cake, i.e., Sachertorte, and Austrian Christmas cookies, known as Weihnachtsbaeckerei…
Skiing is a popular Austrian activity on Christmas Day…
In Belgium, on Christmas eve, actors enact Christmas stories in a parade and there are often choirs rendering concerts at Hall Bruges and in local churches. Families usually gather around the Christmas tree and then go for a midnight mass. During Christmas meals, Cougnou, a sweet bread that is meant to symbolize the infant Jesus, is served…

William Seccombe: Respected SB Mayor, Civic Leader & Segregationist

William Carpenter Seccombe is a San Bernardino county historical figure whose personal and public accomplishments are intertwined with an issue that from an historical and social perspective now appears unfortunate and mars his legacy.
During his early years, the city of San Bernardino and its environs had become a center of the citrus industry and was growing and developing dynamically with various business concerns. Seccombe was among an alert class of men awash on this sea of opportunity who had not lost their strong sense of civic duty nor neglected the claims upon them of the unfortunate, rather having grown
in constructive citizenship and humanitarianism as they had in commercial importance.
Seccombe was born in Waverly, Nova Scotia, Canada, May 21, 1873, a son of Canadian parents who came to San Bernardino in 1883, and he was reared there. After completing his studies in the public schools of San Bernardino he became a student of the old Sturgess Academy, which until the establishment of the city’s public high schools gave San Bernardino’s youth the equivalent of high school training. None living today have any recollection of the academy, as after the public high schools opened more than a century ago, it was shuttered. The academy, nonetheless, was remembered by those of Mr. Seccombe’s generation with kindly affection.
After leaving the academy, Seccombe was purposed to become in general an entrepreneur and specifically a druggist. He accordingly sought training in the field by going to work for the drug store owned by Ernest E. McGibbon and later that of John A. Lamb.
From 1891 to 1904 he served as a member of the California National Guard, and from April 9 to December 2, 1898, was in the service during the Spanish-American war, holding the rank of first lieutenant of Company K, Seventh Infantry. In 1900 he received a commission as a major of the Seventh Regiment, California National Guard, and continued to serve as such for four years. The National Guard was re-organized after the return of its members, who had volunteered for service during the Spanish-American war.
Seccombe had remained employed with the drug store operations owned by McGibbon and Lamb for the ten years between 1885 and 1895. Having acquired a working knowledge of the pharmacy business in nearly all of its particulars, he joint ventured with F. N. Towne and M. D. Allison, establishing the firm of Towne, Seccombe & Allison, their first location being a drug store placed into an existing retail establishment Towne owned at 406 Second Street, which they remodeled.
On December 25, 1897, Seccombe married Miss Margaret Lee Perdew, a daughter of G. F. R. B. and Jeanette (Woodworth) Perdew. Mr. Perdew was a pioneer of California, coming here from Texas in 1862 by ox team and settling at San Bernardino. His death occurred in San Bernardino in November 1900. Mrs. Seccombe was born at San Bernardino, February 20, 1874. Mr. and Mrs. Seccombe had two sons. William Lyle Seccombe was born May 21, 1902, graduated from the San Bernardino High School and attended the Oregon Agricultural College at Corvallis, Oregon, studying civil and structural engineering. Gordon Herbert was born June 20, 1911 and attended public schools in San Bernardino.
The drug store Seccombe founded with Towne and Allison grew so rapidly that expansion became necessary, and the partners then established their second store, at 576 Third Street, in 1909. In 1912 the Dragon Pharmacy was acquired and added to the business of the other two flourishing stores. For twelve years Mr. Seccombe was secretary, treasurer and active manager, but retired from the concern in March 1919.
In 1907, Seccombe became a member of the San Bernardino Board of Education. From 1913 until 1919, he was board president, during which time the polytechnic high school campuses were built. When those schools were opened, he delivered the dedication address.
A Mason, Seccombe also belonged to the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, in which he held a life membership, and he was a charter member of the Rotary Club. His family attended the Congregational Church, in which Mrs. Seccombe was an active worker.
Having released himself from the confining responsibilities of an engrossing business, Seccombe in the middle and late 1920s and into the 1930s was free to give expression to some of his ideas relative to outside matters, and in a spirit of civic pride made a study of some of the problems of the day, suggesting possible solutions. Always a friend of the public schools, he was looked upon as an authority emeritus even though he was no longer on the board, and his advice was oftentimes sought by members of the board of educators. He engaged in a number of varied benevolences that were seldom made public.
Having spent all but ten years of his life in San Bernardino, his interests naturally centered there and he did everything within his power to aid in the further development of his adopted city. Throughout the 1930s his reputation grew, culminating in his election as mayor. He served in that capacity from May 12, 1941 to May 11,1947.
Unfortunately, it was during this tenure that the last throes of the traditional practice of ethnic segregation in Southern California were cast off and Seccombe’s name became permanently identified with the discredited former social order.
Throughout much of its early history and lasting well into the 1940s, the Hispanic population of Southern California, including San Bernardino, was subject to discriminatory practices that were accepted as par for the course by most of the region’s inhabitants. Children of Mexican descent attended segregated schools, and Latinos in San Bernardino were permitted to use public pools only on Sunday, the day before the pools were drained and cleaned.
On August 1, 1943, the Mexican American Defense Committee of San Bernardino held a meeting at San Jose Hall on Fifth Street and Pico Avenue to discuss what could be done about these practices.
The meeting had been coordinated and was hosted by Eugenio Nogueras, the editor of a local Spanish language newspaper, El Sol de San Bernardino. The attendees resolved to meet the issue head on and confront city officials about the policies they had put in place or were perpetuating which subjected the entire Hispanic population of the city and in particular those living in the Westside barrio along Mount Vernon Avenue to second and third class citizenship.
On August 19, 1943, the Mexican American Defense Committee sent a letter to Mayor Seccombe and the city council demanding that “Mexicans” be allowed to use the municipal pool at Perris Hill Park. Tommy Richardson, the city of San Bernardino’s municipal recreation supervisor and the coordinator of baseball games held on Mount Vernon Avenue, voiced his support of the policy change. Nevertheless, the city council rejected the Mexican American Defense Committee’s demands. On September 17, 1943, Los Angeles-based attorney David C. Marcus representing the Mexican American Defense Committee and petitioners Ignacio Lopez, Eugenio Nogueras, Father Nuñez, Virginia Prado, and Rafael Muñoz filed a class action lawsuit against the mayor and the city council. Lopez vs. Seccombe made issue of the segregated swimming pools in San Bernardino.
Marcus asserted that as taxpayers and United States citizens, the Mexican Americans of San Bernardino were entitled to use parks and recreational facilities within the city and that barring their admittance was unconstitutional under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
The case was heard in District Court of the United States for the Southern District of California, Central Division in Los Angeles.
Seccombe and the city denied the allegations and stated that the city charter provided the mayor and the city council with the legislative and administrative “authority to acquire, own and maintain public libraries, common museums, gymnasiums, parks and baths,” and in so doing run them in any manner they deemed appropriate.
The district court’s presiding judge, Leon Yanckwich rejected the city’s assertion of overriding authority, ruling that the city had to abide by the Constitutional guarantees provided to all citizens, including San Bernardino’s Mexican American residents. Yanckwich declared, in a ruling handed down on February 5, 1944, “…respondents’ conduct is illegal and is in violation of petitioners’ rights and privileges as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States… as particularly provided under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, that petitioners are entitled to such equal accommodations, advantages, and privileges and to equal rights and treatment with other persons as citizens of the United States, in the use and enjoyment of the facilities of said park.”
Lopez v. Seccombe was among the earliest successful desegregation court cases in United States history. The decision desegregating the city’s recreational facilities set a precedent for other local desegregation challenges, including the much more celebrated Mendez v. Westminster, a school desegregation decision in 1947 involving a school district in Orange County, and influenced the landmark Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.
The case of Lopez v. Seccombe is not William Carpenter Seccombe’s only lasting legacy to San Bernardino.
Garner’s Swamp was a small forest of willow and cottonwood trees. Seccombe and his family enjoyed hunting duck in the area and after he became mayor, he found himself empowered to act on his inclination to turn Garner’s Swamp into a city fishing spot. In 1942, he convinced city officials to buy 12.5 acres of land north of 5th Street between Waterman and Lugo avenues that contained a marsh which resulted from the water table being so close to the surface.
The facility was opened in 1946. Surrounded by 45 acres of state parkland – surrounded by Fifth Street and Pioneer Memorial Cemetery, and Sierra Way and Waterman Avenue – it was known as Inland Lake for years. All of the parkland was taken over by the city from the state in 1991 and it is now known as Seccombe Lake.
William Seccombe was long-lived, living to the age of 99.

Bald Eagle Counts At Local Lakes

On Saturday December 12th, the first bald eagle count of the winter was conducted by local Federal and State biologists and volunteers around several lakes in Southern California. Several dozen bald eagles typically spend their winter vacations around Southern California’s lakes. They migrate here because their prey animals, fish and ducks, are no longer available to them in the cold northern regions as ice covers the lakes and rivers.
A total of seven bald eagles were observed by 38 observers during the 1-hour count period on that Saturday morning: one immature bald eagle at Lake Perris; two adults and one immature bald eagle at Lake Arrowhead and at Big Bear Lake, two adult and two immature bald eagles. The eagle-eyed citizen scientists at Lake Perris were lucky to catch a sighting of an immature golden eagle as well. With more winter storms in the forecast, more migrant bald eagles are anticipated to be moving into the area over the next few weeks. San Bernardino and Riverside counties’ highest numbers of bald eagles are usually in January and February.
The count coordinators from the Forest Service and state recreation areas would like to thank those volunteers for their dedication in getting up early and participating in the eagle census. The success of the eagle counts is entirely dependent on the volunteers!
You can join in the upcoming bald eagle counts for this winter! They are scheduled for the following Saturday mornings: January 9th, February 13th, and March 12th. No experience is needed. Signing up ahead of time is unnecessary – just show up at the designated time and location, dress warmly, bring binoculars and a watch.
Big Bear Lake area volunteers will meet at 8:00 a.m. at the Forest Service’s Big Bear Discovery Center on North Shore Drive for orientation. Contact Robin Eliason ( or 909-382-2832) for more information. Please call 909-382-2832 for cancellation due to winter weather conditions – an outgoing message will be left by 6:30 am on the morning of the count if it has to be cancelled. Contact the Discovery Center (909-382-2790) for information about Eagle Celebrations. There will also be a free slideshow about bald eagles at 11:00 after the counts.
Lake Arrowhead/Lake Gregory volunteers will meet at 8:00 a.m. at the Skyforest Ranger Station for orientation. Contact Robin Eliason ( or 909-382-2832) for more information. Please call 909-382-2832 for cancellation due to winter weather conditions – an outgoing message will be left by 6:30 am on the morning of the count if it has to be cancelled.
Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area volunteers should plan to meet at the Visitor Center at 8:00 a.m. for orientation. Contact Kathy Williams or Mark Wright for more information about volunteering or taking an eagle tour (760-389-2303 between 8:00 and 4:00; or email:
Lake Hemet volunteers should plan on meeting at the Lake Hemet Grocery Store at 8:30 a.m. for orientation. Contact Ann Bowers ( or 909-382-2935) for more information.
Lake Perris State Recreation Area volunteers should plan to meet at the Lake Perris Regional Indian Museum at 8:00 for orientation. Contact the office for more information at 951-940-5600.
The bald eagle nest at Big Bear Lake now has a live-stream nest camera installed. The nesting pair, Lucy and Ricky, is expected to start working on the nest any day now. They typically lay eggs in early or mid-January. Be sure to check it out:
See websites for additional information about the San Bernardino National Forest ( and the California State Recreation Areas (

About the U.S. Forest Service:
The mission of the Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year.