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Monthly Archives: January 2016
Ramos’s Quashing Of Grand Jury Probes Seen As Obstruction Of Justice
By Mark Gutglueck
County civil grand jurors who have taken up investigations deemed highly problematic for top elected officials, senior county staff members and department heads and the county itself have been forced to drop those lines of inquiry and threatened with prosecution if they persist in exploring those issues, the Sentinel is informed.
The subjects involved, the Sentinel has learned, pertain to the failure of the county’s child and family services division to stem the abuse of youths in the county’s foster care system, including incidents that resulted in the deaths of some children; sheriff’s department personnel acquiring title to vehicles impounded during department operations on a far larger scale than was previously reported by the immediate past civil grand jury; sheriff’s department supervisors imposing on deputies so-called ticket writing quotas as part of their patrol assignments; incidents in which county jail inmates were furnished or otherwise allowed access to intoxicants; and the use of sheriff’s department
helicopters for purposes wholly unrelated to law enforcement, public safety and rescue operations to transport high ranking department members, department members’ wives and girlfriends, campaign donors, political figures or their associates to locales both inside and outside the county, in some cases for highly inappropriate purposes.
What is suggested by the reports is that District Attorney Mike Ramos has overstepped his legitimate authority as San Bernardino County’s top prosecutor to quash or have the deputy prosecutor overseeing the grand jury quash the investigations, either to protect from prosecution or save from embarrassment certain county officials or to limit the potential of county liability that might ensue if the degree to which certain county employees acted misappropriately, negligently or illegally were to be documented. It has been reported that in one case in particular, Ramos engaged in what might be construed as an effort to obstruct justice by meeting with top county officials in a “strategy session” aimed at devising a “cover story.”
At issue in the brewing scandal is whether top county officials have interfered with the legitimate independent investigative purview of the grand jury or whether grand jurors themselves violated the confidentiality of the grand jury’s proceedings.
All counties in California are required under the California Constitution as well as Title 4 and Title 5 of the California Penal Code along with Government Code 3060 to have at least one grand jury impaneled at all times.
Most standing grand juries in California, including San Bernardino County’s grand jury, are referred to as civil grand juries and have a session that is coterminous with the government fiscal year running from July 1 through June 30. These grand juries do not typically deal with criminal matters, per se, but are chartered to focus primarily on oversight of government institutions at the county level or lower, such as cities or water, fire, school and community services districts or any entity which receives public money. If in the course of such an investigation the grand jury comes upon indications or evidence of real or potential criminal activity, it is at liberty to gather that information and both pass it along to the appropriate law enforcement agency and document it in a report, in either ad hoc form in the annual grand jury report put out toward the end of its term in June.
Grand juries have the authority to charge public officials with “willful or corrupt misconduct in office.” Such accusations under the California Constitution and state law are to be tried in the same manner as a criminal indictment, and may not be dismissed for political or extra-legal motives. The definition of “willful misconduct in office” specifies serious misconduct that constitutes criminal behavior or “purposeful failure to carry out mandatory duties of office.”
In San Bernardino County, going back at least as far as district attorney Jerome Kavanaugh in the late 1930s and 1940s, the district attorney’s office has provided the civil grand jury with an advisor. That policy continued under all subsequent district attorneys – Lowell Lathrop, Jim Cramer, Dennis Kottmeier, Dennis Stout and Mike Ramos. And while the advisor’s role is supposed to be limited to providing guidance as to the law and its applicability with regard to the matters taken up by the grand jurors, in San Bernardino County the advisor has taken on a more powerful and controlling role than is provided for under the law, often leading the grand jury, seeking to control it or curtail it, rather than simply serving to provide legal guidance. In many cases over the years the areas into which grand juries have sought to insert themselves have been rife with embarrassment or worse for the district attorney, his office, or the offices or functions of his political allies and associates in and out of county government. In some cases, a grand jury has gotten a hold on some issue that, if or when fully exposed and documented, might have or did lead to individuals, groups, businesses or entities harmed by that action filing civil action in the form of a lawsuit that could have resulted in or did lead to an adjudicated verdict or settlement that could have or did cost the county substantial amounts of money. On more than one occasion, these incipient investigations have been smothered by the grand jury advisor, almost always at the insistence of the district attorney himself.
Yet that is not how the system was intended to work as, indeed, the civil grand jury process was designed as a means of accountability for all elements of the local governmental structure, including the district attorney and his office.
It is that abasement of the grand jury’s function that has led to the current contretemps.
The 2014-15 Grand Jury took up a number of issues, including at least three pertaining to the sheriff’s department. Those involved looking into the conditions at five of the detention facilities/jails the department runs, the department’s towing procedures and an examination of the department’s aviation division.
All three of those investigations dealt with potentially explosive issues.
Even as the grand jury was looking into the conditions in the county jails, four separate lawsuits were filed in roughly the same time frame alleging a pattern of guard-on-prisoner brutality that included beatings, the use of electric shock and sadistic sexual abuse. The FBI launched an investigation as well, “walking off” from the West Valley Detention Center four jailors who were subsequently, along with one other deputy, fired by the department. Nevertheless, the 2014-15 Grand Jury Report made no mention of the abuse of prisoners.
The investigation of the department’s towing procedures came about after complaints were made that vehicles impounded by tow companies with towing service arrangements with the sheriff’s department’s various substations were subsequently purchased by department personnel at lien sales conducted by those towing companies. While the grand jury report acknowledged reports of “employees purchasing vehicles at lien sales after a vehicle has been impounded by a tow company or after a vehicle had been seized during an investigation,” the report made no specific references to the sheriff’s department personnel who had actually made those purchases. Rather, the report stated somewhat languidly that steps are to be taken to put into each of the sheriff’s stations’ towing service agreements an addendum that states “All companies participating in the towing service agreement will no longer be allowed or permitted to sell and or give vehicles, motorcycles, motorized vehicles and/or any other property directly related to the towing businesses that are currently enrolled in the towing service agreement to a sheriff’s department employee and/or their immediate family.”
And the report called for the sections in the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Manual related to vehicle towing policy and rewards and gratuities be revised to state: “In the performance of duty, deputy sheriffs frequently seize the personal property of citizens. The act of seizing another’s property is one of the most invasive and litigated activities by law enforcement. In order to avoid any appearance that a seizure was for personal gain, employees shall not possess property that has been seized by the department. This includes the purchase of seized property by a third party for an employee’s use.”
The grand jury’s review of the sheriff’s aviation division resulted in similarly bland conclusions. “Not all flights are recorded in the Aviation Flight Logs,” the report stated, while further noting, “The majority of waivers for civilian ride-alongs, including background checks, are not properly completed and /or approved prior to the applicants’ flights on San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department aircraft” and “Staff personnel are not adhering to division standard operating procedures.”
Coinciding with the release of the grand jury report at the end of June was publicity about a lawsuit previously filed by Ontario-based attorney Christopher L. Gaspard on behalf of sheriff’s sergeant Tim Jordan, who is now retired, and current deputies Brian Moler and Jeff Wetmore against San Bernardino County and the sheriff’s department alleging they experienced retaliation from their immediate superiors and other higher ranking department members for the resistance they lodged after their immediate supervisors “imposed on the motor patrol officers a 200 traffic ticket per month quota and instituted a traffic citation tracking system in an effort to ensure they met that quota.” Also according to that suit, “In early 2011 Sgt Jordan discovered that sheriff’s personnel assigned to the department’s narcotics unit would routinely tow vehicles and flip them by purchasing the vehicles at lien sales and selling them for profit. The sheriff’s personnel who were flipping towed cars would call a particular tow company owned by the father of a deputy sheriff. This would occur regardless of the location from which the car was towed. When the vehicle came up for lien sale the owner of the tow company would contact the deputies and offer them the first chance of purchasing the vehicle. The owner of the tow company would discount the vehicles, often selling them for thousands of dollars below bluebook value.”
On August 27, 2015, Fox 11 News in Los Angeles reported that “children who were under the supervision of the San Bernardino County Department of Children and Family Services … were being abused, tortured, and killed.” According to that report, in certain cases, children had been entrusted to foster parents who had previously been caught abusing children living in their homes. In one of those cases, according to Fox 11, a child had died at the hand of an abusive foster parent after the San Bernardino County Department of Children and Family Services was made aware of the sadistic nature of that foster parent. The Fox 11 News report made reference to an ongoing grand jury investigation.
In recent days, reports have circulated that a sheriff’s department command level officer at the Rancho Cucamonga station supervising an inmate work crew given the task of cleaning up after a civic event acquiesced in allowing some of the trustees share some alcohol left over from the celebration. The grand jury, apparently, received a report about what had occurred.
What is now being bruited around the county is that members of the current 2015-16 Grand Jury have been told that their immediate previous predecessors – the 2014-15 Grand Jury – had been prevailed upon to soft pedal the sheriff’s department issues they had taken up. So, members of the 2015-16 grand jury sought to again take up brutality in the jails, the purchase of impounded vehicles by sheriff’s department personnel, the ticket quotas imposed upon traffic officers and the misuse of sheriff’s department helicopters. And in reaction to information brought to them or which they sought out themselves, the current grand jury members have likewise attempted to dig into the mismanagement in the San Bernardino County Department of Children and Family Services and its oversight of the foster parent program as well as the report relating to the provision of alcohol to county inmates. In each case, however, the grand jury’s members were told to back off and stay out of those particular matters. Reportedly, in some cases, seeing their investigations thwarted by the grand jury advisor and the district attorney’s office resulted in a few of the grand jurors seeking to have the issues addressed in some other forum, as is evinced in the surfacing of the report by Fox 11 relating to deaths of children at the hand of their foster parents. This in turn has resulted in the grand jurors being threatened with prosecution for leaking what is deemed “confidential” information relating to the various grand jury investigations.
Indeed, grand jury investigations and proceedings are considered to be confidential and, when a grand jury is impaneled, the members are informed of such and sworn to secrecy. That level of security with regard to the proceedings is applied for a variety of reasons, including ensuring that the integrity of the investigation is maintained, that witnesses are not compromised by being able to communicate with one another ahead of time to coordinate their stories, to prevent the destruction of evidence and to protect the reputations of innocent parties who may be an initial target of such inquiries or may have falsely fallen under suspicion.
In the instant matter, however, those close to the investigations have suggested that the threats issued to the grand jurors to the effect that they will be prosecuted for speaking out have been made not to maintain the integrity of the proceedings but rather to mask that the proceedings have been hijacked by individuals highly placed within the county government structure who have an interest in or motive toward shutting the investigations down.
Moreover, indications have surfaced to suggest that county officials are militating to seek out and identify witnesses to the alleged criminal acts or wrongdoing that had been the focus of the quashed grand jury investigations and either punish them or threaten them to prevent them from offering information or testimony.
The most compelling demonstration in this regard is a meeting said to have taken place on Friday August 28 which was attended by County Executive Officer Greg Devereaux, District Attorney Mike Ramos, Children and Family Services Director Marlene Hagen and a handful of other high level county officials in which a cover story and talking points were outlined that were calculated to defuse the issue of negligence in the San Bernardino County Children and Family Services Department which led to the deaths of children in the foster parent system it oversaw. In this way, it appears that Ramos, whose office would be the lead agency in prosecuting any individuals shown to be culpable in criminal acts leading to the deaths of the children in the foster care system, was a primary architect in an effort to obstruct justice.
Asked about the August 28 meeting, David Wert, the county spokesman, did not confirm it had taken place, but stopped short of denying it had occurred. “I haven’t heard anything about that,” Wert said. He acknowledged the context surrounding it.
“Fox 11 did a series of reports along that story line,” he said, but asserted concern within the county governmental structure with regard to the reports “did not rise to the level that would require a response from the CEO and the district attorney.”
Wert nevertheless indicated that the reports did get the county’s attention, in doing so implying that some order of violation of the secrecy protocol pertaining to grand jury proceedings might have occurred.
“It did strike us as odd that Fox would report about any investigation,” Wert said. He then alluded to the secrecy of grand jury proceedings and the confidentiality grand jurors are expected to maintain with regard to them. Disclosure of the very existence or any of the substance of the investigation would be improper all the way around, he suggested, on the part of members of the grand jury or those brought in as witnesses. When witnesses are questioned before the grand jury, Wert said, investigators “admonish them not to disclose” what they have been questioned about.
Wert then cast doubt on whether the grand jury was even looking into the issues outlined in the Fox 11 reports. “Children and Family Services had not been contacted by the grand jury,” he said.
As to some of the grand jurors being threatened with arrest or prosecution for persisting in their efforts to investigate the Children and Family Services division and sheriff’s department issues, Wert said, “Who would threaten a grand juror? That would defy all common sense. I haven’t heard anything to that effect.”
Unknown at this point is whether deputy district attorney Michael Dauber, the current grand jury advisor, was also in attendance at the August 28 meeting. Reports persist that Dauber has taken a lead role in quashing the efforts by several members of the grand jury to push forward with investigations on the foster child deaths, ticket quotas, impounded vehicle title transfers, misuse of the sheriff’s helicopter and the provision of alcohol to inmates.
Despite efforts to keep those issues from surfacing, information with regard to two of those cases – those related to sheriff’s personnel obtaining titles to impounded vehicles and the profligate use of the sheriff’s department’s helicopters – is hemorrhaging into public view.
The civil case brought by Gaspard on behalf of Jordan, Moler and Wetmore is taking place in a venue and under circumstances involving court pleadings, exhibits and depositions which fall beyond the ability of the grand jury or the district attorney’s office to contain. At stake is the revelation of the identities of department personnel and/or their family members who purchased for their own use or purchased and then sold at considerable profit multiple vehicles they had a hand in having impounded.
As embarrassing as that is to the sheriff’s department, the misuse of the department helicopters is even more scandalizing. At play are reports that this matter replicates a pattern of misuse of department aircraft going back more than thirty years. According to a former grand jury foreman, department helicopters on occasion were used to ferry a former California State Senator to a brothel in San Diego on a fairly consistent basis. A former sheriff’s department pilot reported that both the sheriff’s department helicopters and the department’s planes were used to carry department members, in nearly all cases high ranking ones, including the then-sheriff and then-undersheriff together with their guests on excursions to out-of-state locations, for extended weekend get-togethers. Those guests included in some cases elected officials, personal and political associates, the wives of the sheriff’s department personnel or the wives of the officials and associates and on occasion other female escorts. One common destination of those flights was what is described as a hunting and fishing lodge in Idaho.
The recent abuse of the department helicopters is said to feature similar whirls to resort locations both inside and outside San Bernardino County.
Of note is that the current sheriff, John McMahon, has been reported to own property in Idaho. For several years in the middle of the first decade of the current century while he was serving as the sheriff’s station commander in Apple Valley, McMahon drove a pickup truck that had Idaho license plates.
Ramos and McMahon stand as the two co-regents of the law enforcement establishment in San Bernardino County and Ramos has formed a firm and fast political alliance with McMahon, brooking no criticism of his colleague or the department he heads. The lion’s share of the grand jury investigations that have been suppressed in the current grand jury term have targeted McMahon’s department.
A phone call to the grand jury office on Tuesday, January 26 was fielded by the secretary to the grand jury, Sarah Mayne, who said that Dauber, the grand jury advisor, “was feeling ill this morning. I don’t know if he will be returning from lunch today or not.” Seven further attempts to reach Dauber by phone on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday including three phone messages left on his answering machine, did not elicit a response.
Neither Ramos nor his spokesman, Christopher Lee, responded to requests for comment.
In Exit From SB Bankruptcy Creditors To Get One Penny On The Dollar
In a move as brazen as it is bold, San Bernardino officials are asking that the lion’s share of the city’s creditors and vendors that have been stiffed over the three-and-a-half year duration of the municipality’s tarriance in bankruptcy be paid one cent on the dollar pursuant to its restructuring plan.
The city’s proposal that it pay just one percent of the roughly $50 million it owes to its unsecured creditors must be approved by Federal Bankruptcy Judge Meredith Jury.
After years of staving off financial challenges, San Bernardino filed a Chapter 9 bankruptcy petition in August 2012. In its filing, the county seat asserted it had $180 million in ongoing unfunded liabilities and a $49 million annual operating deficit.
The city had liabilities and assets which both total more than $1 billion and somewhere between 10,001 and 25,000 creditors, which include employees, vendors the city has worked with, and litigants who have sued the city, according to the city’s original filing.
Many of the city’s creditors contested the city’s filing, maintaining that it could streamline its ongoing operations and liquidate some of its assets to make those entities it was not paying whole. The most spirited of the city’s challengers in bankruptcy court proved to be the state’s public employees retirement system, known by its acronym CalPERS.
CalPERS is San Bernardino’s largest creditor. At the time of the Chapter 9 filing, the city had a $25 million-and-growing annual obligation to the retirement system and it withheld more than $14 million in pension fund payments from July 2012 until July of 2013. The city sought permission to make continual partial payments to its employee pension system until such time as it gets back on its feet financially. Judge Jury, over the objections of CalPERS and others, granted the city’s bankruptcy petition. After lingering in bankruptcy for nearly two years, the city in June 2014 brokered some fashion of a deal with CalPERS, which at that point maintained the city was at least $16.4 million in arrears to it, prior to interest. In a tersely worded joint announcement at the time, the city and CalPERS announced that the city was to “make certain payments to CalPERS on deferred amounts owing.” Both CalPERS and the city remain deliberately vague about the how much it will ultimately pay the pension fund in the coming years. Published reports pegged the city’s debt to CalPERS at $50.4 million.
The city did take out a $56.8 million loan from Erste Europaische Pfandbrief-und Kommunalkreditbank AG, ostensibly to begin making inroads on its pension and other obligations. How the city can realistically meet its payments to Erste Europaische Pfandbrief-und Kommunalkreditbank AG is an emerging question.
There have been indications the city will eventually make payment in full of past debt and make good on all payments due going forward. But there are practical considerations that would seem to make such a scenario wishful, at best. If in fact CalPERS has accepted taking less money from San Bernardino than it is contractually owed, it is not in the pension system’s interest to acknowledge as much, as this may tempt other cash-strapped cities to move to the bankruptcy option themselves to get out from under their punishing debt to the system.
Thus, the precise recovery CalPERS stands to make is yet not completely clear, though a logical inference is that it will likely receive the greatest percentage of money owed to all of the city’s creditors, something in excess of the fifty percent range. It was disclosed early last year that CalPERS had spent $7.5 million in legal fees in its efforts to preserve its position with regard to the Vallejo, Stockton and San Bernardino bankruptcies.
In November 2014, Jury ordered the city to submit its bankruptcy exit plan by last May 30, which the city did, despite a lack of documentation and audits of its finances during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 fiscal years.
It has now been disclosed that the city wants to treat the remaining unsecured creditors with far more parsimony than it did CalPERS, offering them a mere one percent of what they are owed. If Jury will allow them to do so, city officials maintain they will be able to expunge $49 million of red ink from the city’s ledgers.
This means that literally hundreds of businesses and individuals owed money by the city will, if Judge Jury agrees, need to write off 99 percent of what is owed to them. Those unsecured creditors include vendors of both goods and services as well as individuals who made claims against the city or filed and prevailed in suits in which they alleged and proved that action by the city and/or its employees harmed them and caused them monetary loss. In the most extreme, some of the legal cases involve wrongful death cases which grew out of shootings by members of the police department. Others involve negligence by the city’s public works division and still others involve excessive use of force cases against the police department and its personnel. Some involve cases in which innocent bystanders suffered collateral injury or otherwise were harmed by action taken as officers effected arrests of criminals.
The city is asking that the 1 percent payout cap be applied to all litigants or claimants harmed prior to, or who made those claims or filed lawsuits prior to, August 1, 2012, when the bankruptcy filing was made. It further applies to those who had obtained judgments or settlements prior to that date who had not been paid as of that date.
Over the next three months it is anticipated that there will be an unending parade of irate claimants, victorious litigants, creditors and vendors coming before Judge Jury during hearings in Federal Court in Riverside.
Under bankruptcy law, based upon the relative ability or inability of an insolvent party to raise funds, a judge has the option of allowing letting the indigent entity skip out on its obligations, even when that failure to make good on the debt has a devastating effect on the neglected consignee.
To cut spending, San Bernardino has ended its subsidy of employees’ health costs and outsourced its fire department to the county and created a county fire service assessment district that is coterminous with the city limits. That district is going to collect a parcel tax of $143 on every property in the city and remit that money back to the city. The council this week voted to finalize the outsourcing of trash service, which will allow it to collect a franchise fee from Burrtec, the company it selected to handle refuse hauling in the city.
Not surprisingly, Erste Europaische Pfandbrief-und Kommunalkreditbank AG has recently experienced lender’s remorse, and it is asking Judge Jury to clarify with exactitude what assets the city has, including real property that can be converted to cash, before she approves the city’s bankruptcy exit plan or allows the city to get out from under any of its debt to any and all of its creditors.
Few financial professionals believe Jury will approve the city’s proposal to pay a mere 1 percent of what it owes to its vendors and creditors. They see the request as a first round bargaining position assumed by the city. The city does possess property and assets that could be sold off to raise money that might cover a larger percentage of what those creditors are owed. Jury could also do an evaluation of each claim against the city, determining, through what is termed “a balancing of hardships” if some creditors should be paid more than others.
Still, some cities in bankruptcy have slipped out the back door by paying as little as one percent to those to whom they owed money.
In February 2015, Stockton emerged from a 31-month bankruptcy after U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein acceded to the city paying its unsecured creditors 1 percent of what the city owed them. Franklin Funds, which was owed $35 million in both secured and unsecured debt, appealed that ruling but lost.
Vallejo emerged from bankruptcy in 2011 after agreeing to pay its unsecured creditors 20 to 30 percent of what they were owed. Across the country, in the most celebrated case of municipal bankruptcy to date, Detroit paid its unsecured creditors between 10 and 13 percent in its 2014 bankruptcy emergence.
A status hearing on the city of San Bernardino’s bankruptcy petition will be held at 1:30 p.m. on March 9 at U.S. Bankruptcy Court at 3420 12th St., Riverside.
Morongo Valley Voters To Consider $350 Per Parcel Fire Assessment On June Ballot
By a four-to-one vote, the Morongo Valley Community Services District Board of Directors last week called for a public election in June on a proposed $350 annual parcel tax to cover the operational costs of the local fire department. Director Karen Lowe, who was slightly over two years into her first term on the board, cast the single vote against holding the election. To emphasize her opposition, she resigned from the board, effective at once.
At present, Morongo Valley landowners are already subject to a fire-service related assessment. That taxing regime, in place since it was passed in 2002, is not uniform and varies with regard to the degree of improvements on the property. The current assessment for an unimproved lot can be as low as ten dollars per year and ranges upward to $160 for a fully improved lot with structures in place.
The tax proposal, which requires two-thirds approval to pass, will go before Morongo Valley voters at the June 7 primary election. It would institute a flat $350 per parcel tax, irrespective of improvements. It will need two-thirds approval to pass. If it fails, the existing assessments will remain in effect.
Don Krouse, the chairman of the Citizens Committee for a Fire Tax, told the Sentinel, “The fire tax measure is strictly for funding the operations of the firefighters and advanced life support paramedics of Morongo Valley. The tax will eliminate the existing fire assessment. For improved properties the total increase is not $350 but about $200 more pet year. The primary benefit goes to the citizens of Morongo Valley. Without our own fire department, emergency services will not be locally administered but instead centralized out of San Bernardino.”
Krouse acknowledged that “Fire taxes are lower in incorporated communities,” but asserted, “Morongo Valley does not qualify for incorporation due to the small population. Other communities that are unincorporated may have small tax amounts but that is also the result of a larger number of property parcels that divide the cost over many more payers. It really becomes a math calculation that ties the costs of maintaining services spread among all parcels.”
He said he believed defraying the cost of adequate service through the assessments was the community’s best option.
“The State of California could provide services through CalFire [the California Division of Forestry], but that comes with higher costs to Morongo Valley property owners,” Krouse said. “San Bernardino County Fire could annex Morongo Valley. That also comes with much higher costs to the citizens. The possibility always exists that Morongo Valley voters will reject any emergency services if they have to pay but in that case the negative impact on insurance costs, property values, and lost lives will be significant.”
Krouse granted that the odds were stacked against the assessment measure.
“Viability of any tax measure always means that steep walls of objections stand in the way of passage,” he said. “Because California requires new taxes to be approved by two-thirds of the voters, the opposition has a huge leg up and it certainly puts success in serious question. The point remains that, whether this is a realistic endeavor or not, the important question is simply whether the community sees that benefits clearly outweigh the negatives. In the end, the winning side will own the consequences, good or bad.”
With regard to Lowe’s resignation, Krouse said, “I find it disturbing that she could not voice her opposition and continue to serve. We generally don’t see elected officials resigning when a vote goes against them on an issue. Furthermore, she may not agree, but a vote against letting the voters decide seems a bit disrespectful. This issue has been staring Morongo Valley in the face for quite some time. The county’s local agency formation commission will close down the fire and paramedic operations if we do not increase revenues.”
Krouse sought to remind the community that the firefighters in Morongo Valley are paid far less than there counterparts elsewhere.
“Our firefighters don’t earn the high salaries paid through the state or county,” he said. “One’s values come into question when they believe that the people who save our lives and property should earn so little and without retirement benefits either. When Walmart raises their minimum salary to $15 an hour, our firefighters could earn more there.”
Krouse said, “The bottom line is as follows: Approve the Morongo Valley fire tax and pay $350 per parcel. Let San Bernardino County Fire annex Morongo Valley and pay $635 or $853 depending on the level of staffing, or pay exorbitant insurance premiums and see property values drop because we have no emergency services.”
In fiscal year 2014-15, the existing assessment netted $300,825, which was 40.5 percent of the $742,443 cost of running the fire department. Calculations are that if the new assessment is put in place, it would generate $913,000 in 2017.
County Signs No-Bid Contract For Inmates’ Legal Research
The county this week entered into a no-bid contract with a Hayward-based company with which it had three previous no-bid purchase orders to provide legal research assistance to inmates in the county jails.
In doing so, the county will continue its policy of ensuring that inmates do not have the opportunity to independently access the internet and other data bases in their efforts to track down information of potential use in their upcoming criminal cases or appeals of their convictions but rather rely upon others who are not incarcerated and have no personal interest in proving their innocence.
The sheriff’s department provides ongoing legal research services for county inmates.
Traditionally, there are two different methods of providing legal research services to inmates, one consisting of the delivery of hard copy materials to them upon their description and request and the other consisting of providing them with direct access to an off-line external hard drive so they can personally engage in the research directly, consistent with the limitations of what is available on the hard drive.
This second method is problematic, according to sheriff’s captain Sam Fisk because, “In order to utilize the external hard drives, additional computers will be required at all facilities for the inmates’ use. This would require training the inmates to use the system and additional staff to monitor the inmates during this time, making this not a viable option.”
According to Fisk, “Legal Research Associates delivers hard copy materials after receiving a request from an inmate and researching the topic. The inmate can then read the materials in his or her housing unit.”
Fisk indicated that giving Legal Research Associates the contract to provide inmates with legal research assistance under a non-competitive process was justified.
“Legal Research Associates is the only known vendor that offers the hard copy method delivery for legal research,” Fisk said. “Purchasing concurs with the non-competitive justification of mandate/legal requirement.”
Because County Policy No. 11-05 requires that all contracts for services obtained without a competitive process and/or that exceed $100,000 in aggregate cost per scope of service, per vendor, per department after three consecutive annual periods must be approved by the board of supervisors, the contract was taken before the board this week. They unanimously approved the contract on a motion by Supervisor Robert Lovingood that was seconded by Curt Hagman.
Under the terms of the proposed contract, Legal Research Associates will respond to an inmate’s written request for legal research materials within three business days of receipt. In consideration for the services provided, Legal Research Associates is compensated at a flat fee of $5,000 per month.
On December 7, 2015, the Sheriff’s Inmate Welfare Committee approved continuing to contract with LRA to provide legal research materials to county inmates for a three-year period, in the amount of $180,000. The Inmate Welfare Committee is comprised of six citizens appointed by the sheriff to oversee the use of inmate welfare funds and acts as an advisory panel for inmate educational and vocational programs.
Yucaipa Renews Its Marijuana Prohibition
Yucaipa is the latest San Bernardino County city to adopt a ban on medical marijuana sales, distribution, cultivation and manufacturing, having moved to beat a March 1 deadline set by the California legislature in order to avoid coming under what some consider to be too permissive state regulations.
The Yucaipa City Council on January 25 adopted a revamped ordinance prohibiting all order of cannabis commercial activity within the 51,367-population city.
Faced with the options of a total ban and the state’s version of control, or legalization, the city council chose to redefine and tighten the prohibition the city has had in place since 2009.
The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, an amalgam of AS 243, AB 266 and SB 643, which passed both houses of the legislature last year, is set to go into effect on March 1. The bills put in place a revamped set of regulations for physicians who recommend or prescribe marijuana for their patients and they lay down licensing requirements for the cultivation, distribution and transportation of medical marijuana, together with safety and testing requirements and protocols for the drug.
The regulations inherent in the bills, including opening the door to marijuana purveyors and producers, i.e., operators of clinics, dispensaries and farms, are not binding on municipalities that have their own prohibitions or licensing and operating protocols in place prior to March 1. But those standards will apply to those cities and jurisdictions that do not have their own ordinances codified by that date.
Proposition 215, or the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, was enacted, on November 5, 1996 by means of the initiative process. It allows for the use of marijuana for medical purposes, but leaves open to local authorities the question of whether its sale is to be licensed and permitted in individual cities and jurisdictions.
A relatively limited number of marijuana clinic operators throughout the state for nearly two decades braved a circumstance in which they could conduct selling marijuana under the guise of medicine in accordance with state law but risked confiscation of their product and money, closure of their facilities and arrest and conviction by federal law enforcement officers, since the drug was yet considered illegal under U.S. statutes pertaining to narcotics. In many cases, cities adopted local ordinances disallowing the operations of dispensaries and clinics. In December 2014, however, the Barack Obama Administration, through the attorney general’s office, signaled federal officials would no longer enforce marijuana laws in those states where the drug had been legalized for medical or recreational purposes. Over the last thirteen months, ever greater numbers of entrepreneurs have gone into the marijuana trade. In some San Bernardino County cities, most notably in Needles and Adelanto, those city governments have allowed the issuance of business licenses to, in the case of Needles, purveyors of Marijuana and cultivators of the plant, and in the case of Adelanto, cultivators.
A number of other San Bernardino County cities, however, have remained on the prohibitionist side of the marijuana divide.
Anticipating a circumstance in which would-be marijuana operation applicants would seek to exploit any gaps in the city’s more than six-year-old ordinance and set up shop in Yucaipa by meeting the state guidelines, the city council clarified outright bans across the spectrum of cannabis related activities. Other cities in the county, including Chino and Redlands, adopted ordinances earlier this month to head off the possibility of marijuana operations obtaining entitlements under the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act.
In Yucaipa, as in some other areas, there is a sharp difference in the stances taken by many of its most vocal residents with regard to the medical marijuana issue. Some residents maintain that there is a legitimate medical application for the drug and that some individuals suffering from certain maladies and conditions should be provided with compassionate access to the substance. Others question its medical value and others see easy medical marijuana availability as an illegitimate ruse by those who wish to obtain the drug for recreational purposes and those who want to profit by such sales.
In Yucaipa, the city council is populated by individuals of, or otherwise more amenable to, the views expressed by, the latter two groups.
County Enters Into Open-Ended Contracts To Increase Building Security
The December 2 murderous spree by Sayed Farook and Tashfeen Malik at the Inland Regional Center has prompted county officials to integrate a host of security measures into the operations at fourt of the county’s major public buildings.
This week, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors committed to spending an indeterminate amount of money to repair or upgrade or otherwise install structural elements or equipment at the county’s main administrative building in downtown San Bernardino, the nearby six story county building that once housed the county’s hall of records, the satellite assessor’s office in Rancho Cucamonga and the West Valley Courthouse in Rancho Cucamonga to lessen the chance that weapons or explosive devices can be brought inside.
On December 2, 2015, 14 people, all of whom worked as county employees in the Department of Public Health’s Environmental Health Services Division were killed and 22 others were seriously injured in a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California perpetrated by Farook and Malik at a San Bernardino County Department of Public Health training event and holiday party involving roughly 80 employees in a rented banquet room.
Terry W. Thompson, the director of the county’s real estate division, this week asked the board of supervisors to “continue the original finding made by the Board of Supervisors on December 4, 2015, that there is substantial evidence that the shooting on December 2, 2015 at the Inland Regional Center, located at 1365 S. Waterman Avenue in San Bernardino, created an emergency pursuant to Public Contract Code section 22050, requiring immediate
action to prevent or mitigate the loss or impairment of life, health, property, and essential service to the public, necessitating the remodel/renovations of portions of the county government center, located at 385 North Arrowhead Avenue, San Bernardino, the old hall of records, located at 172 West 3rd Street, San Bernardino, the county office building located at 8575 Haven Avenue, Rancho Cucamonga, the Rancho Cucamonga Courthouse located at 8303 Haven Avenue, Rancho Cucamonga, and repairs/renovations at other county facilities required for security and to allow staff to provide services, and delegating authority to the chief executive officer to direct the purchasing agent to issue purchase orders for the repairs or improvements.”
Thompson said “a team led by the real estate services department (RESD), including the project management division (PMD), information services department, and purchasing department” had already formed with the assignment of determining how “to procure the necessary repairs, renovations and improvements to the county government center, the old hall of records, a county office building in Rancho Cucamonga, the Rancho Cucamonga Courthouse, and repairs/renovations at other county facilities, required for security and to allow staff to continue to provide services. Following the incident on December 2, 2015, the team began to analyze the requirements for transition space for the Department of Public Health – Environmental Health Services Division.”
Thompson continued, “As allowed under the emergency finding originally made by the board on December 4, 2015, RESD and PMD conducted several site visits and completed tenant improvements necessary to provide the temporary transition space and are evaluating options for long term office space, so as to continue to provide a safe working environment in a continuing effort to ensure the safety of the employees and allow for the continuation of services to the public.”
On a motion by supervisor Robert A. Lovingood, seconded by Curt Hagman, the board unanimously approved Thompson’s request.
Consistent with the emergency findings previously made by the Board, Angeles Contractor, Inc. has been contracted to remodel portions of the old hall of records and the Rancho Cucamonga Courthouse, and under the direction of Greg Devereaux, the county’s chief executive officer, the purchasing agent has been authorized to issue purchase orders to several other vendors including, but not limited to, DLR Group, G/M Building Interiors, Lemay Construction, Santa Fe Building Maintenance, Mission Building Services, Beltmann Moving and Storage, and Allied Barton Security Services LP to prepare interior work areas within the county facilities.
Forum… Or Against ’em
By Count Friedrich von Olsen
Has Governor Jerry Brown outlived his usefulness or what? It is, of course, very difficult for me to make this observation, as I am something like two decades or a quarter of a century older than he is. But he is an obsolescence, a man whose time has come and long gone, an embarrassment. And as all like him, he is the last one to realize it, while it is obvious to everyone else. The thing is, I can remember when he was a young upstart, the youthfully exuberant son of the former governor who took California by storm. Could that much time have really passed? It seems like yesterday. And maybe it really wasn’t that long ago but rather Jerry Brown is superannuated, aging at two or three times the normal rate, so that now he has one foot in the grave and the other in the dark hallway of senility…
And as he ages and dementia overtakes him, the world is closing in on him. He is in real trouble now and seemingly without the faculties to deal with it. On January 25, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith rejected the California Public Utilities Commission’s request to dismiss a lawsuit which is seeking the release of dozens of emails to and from Governor Brown’s office regarding the San Onofre nuclear plant debacle…
“Withholding records of allegedly ex parte secret deals resulting in shifting $3.3 billion of utility losses to ratepayers cannot possibly be a regulatory function of the Public Utility Commission,” Judge Goldsmith ruled, saying “It is not realistic that the Legislature intended that Public Utilities Code Sec. 1759 should be invoked to insulate Public Utilities Commission officials accused of corruption from public scrutiny…”
Judge Goldsmith called for the records to be transferred into the possession of another judge, a so-called special master, to review those communications to determine whether there are any confidentiality issues that would prevent those documents from being made public. The Public Utilities Commission and perhaps the governor himself may attempt to appeal Judge Goldsmith’s ruling to a higher court, but the writing is on the wall. The commission is very likely to contend that matters concerning it should be heard by a specialized set of judges in keeping with the commission’s status as a regulatory authority over power, telecommunications, water and transit companies. The commission has administrative law judges on staff it will maintain have expertise in understanding the complexities of public issues. The commission will seek to maneuver one of the judges it employs to rule that the public has no right to see communications from the governor and the commission. They will argue that the regulators and the governor have legitimate secrets to protect. However the administrative law judges employed by the commision rule, that decision will be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. When that issue gets to the Supreme Court, who do you think will prevail?
San Diego consumer attorney Mike Aguirre has been on a holy terror for the last year, seeking to get to the bottom of how it was that Southern California Edison could engage in a series of technical operational errors at the San Onofre nuclear power plant that necessitated its premature closing at a cost of $4.7 billion and then stick the utility’s ratepayers with the burden of 70 percent of that cost -$3.3 billion – through a settlement approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, which was then chaired by former Edison President Michael Peevey. Oh, did I forget to mention that Aguirre’s dogged pursuit of documentation, in conjunction with some nifty reporting by the San Diego Union Tribune, led to the revelation that the deal was worked out during a 2013 meeting at the Bristol Hotel in Warsaw, Poland, between Peevey and one of Edison’s vice presidents?
Now the commission is arguing that communications between public officials are not public documents…
Reluctantly, the commission’s lawyers handed over hundreds of documents in response to Aguirre’s requests. They did, however, withhold 65 emails to and from the governor’s office under claims of executive-privilege and deliberative-process confidentiality. They also withheld at least fifty emails sent or received by current commission president Michael Picker related to the San Onofre closure. Mr. Picker is a close associate, one might even say crony, of the governor. Previously, when he was a mere commissioner and not chairman, he voted right down the line with Mr. Peevey…
In both court papers and oral arguments commission lawyers insist Goldsmith has no jurisdiction over the commission and no authority to order it to produce documents. The commission has also, using public funds by the way, hired some high-powered criminal lawyers…
Judge Goldsmith, while acknowledging that the commission may be able to make some legal headway in arguing that the state’s Utilities Code categorizes the commission as a quasi-judicial agency so that any appeals of its decisions should be taken up by an appellate court and might therefore be able to take the matter out of his hands, knows, like the rest of us, that the commission and the governor are just stalling. When the matter gets before the appellate court or the Supreme Court, his ruling will be replicated. As he put it, “A core value in a democracy is the right of citizens to know the actions taken by public officials…”
Investigators from the California Attorney General’s office have sought and received at least six separate search warrants as part of their ongoing criminal probe. We already have a glimpse of how tied in with Peevey and Edison Brown was or is. On June 6, 2013, Governor Brown was in Rancho Mirage meeting with President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping. In the midst of that meeting, Governor Brown took a phone call from Edison CEO Ted Craver. Craver sent a memo to Edison board members to give them, he wrote, “a quick report on my phone call with Gov. Brown. He said what we were doing seemed right under the circumstances.” A possible smoking gun in Craver’s memo is that he said Brown “indicated a willingness to” exonerate Edison of any wrongdoing with regard to the technical problems leading to the power plant shutdown…
We are also aware that Governor Brown, while in his position of public trust, is not above using his official position to engage in some energy-related profiteering himself. Last year he used his executive power as governor to extract from California’s oil regulating agency maps, geologic surveys and records relating to oil and natural gas reserves beneath his family’s 2,700-acre ranch in Colusa County. What more might we learn about his dealings when these sought-after communications are finally released?
If this sloppiness in which he, the immediate past attorney general, has baldfacedly engaged in corruption of his public office as if no one is looking when what is going on is perfectly obvious to even an 11-year-old school kid is not indication enough for you, dear reader, that our governor is on a steady slide into senility, then consider this: Jerry Brown is no longer actually serving as governor. His role has been usurped by Gavin Newsome, the lieutenant governor, my Sacramento sources tell me. Jerry Brown at this point is governor in name only. He has retreated to no one knows where, quite possibly to his ranch in Colusa County, to lay low. Mr. Newsome is handling nearly all of his functions. Governor Brown’s wife, I am told, is protecting him, afraid that he will at last have one of the deer-in-the-headlights moments he is constantly experiencing in front of a video camera…
Trust me, it takes one of us demented old bats to truly recognize another one. Now, if one of you would be so kind as to tell me where it was I set my monocle down…
The Milliken Family
By Mark Gutglueck
The founder of the Milliken Ranch in what is present day Rancho Cucamonga was Daniel Brewer Millken.
He was born in Brewer, Maine on November 26, 1829, the son of a sea-faring father, Daniel W., and Rebecca (Smith) Milliken, also Maine natives. Daniel was, even before he reached the age of majority, a hard worker who thought nothing of braving hardship. He would follow his father into the maritime trade, as a crewman on ships that sailed up and down the East Coast, one time putting into a port in Cuba.
When he was 20, the California Gold Rush began. Two years later, Daniel Milliken left Boston. He sailed to Panama, disembarked, crossed the isthmus and caught a ship to San Francisco, reaching the bay in June, 1852. His first steady location thereafter was in Mendocino County, where for a time he prospected with little success. He subsequently engaged himself in more lucrative work, as a contractor building structures in Mendocino.
In 1856, he married Charlotte Smith, the daughter of Thomas Smith, a lumberman. She was born at Surrey in Hancock County, Maine.
The following year, their son, Newell Milliken, was born on August 11, 1857 in Surrey, Maine. When Newell was nine months old, he came with his mother to California. Daniel and Charlotte would in time have three other children, Reuben Morton, Richard R. and Ashie Mae.
In the meantime, Daniel Brewer Milliken, realizing that better money was to be had in supplying the necessities of construction rather than building houses, warehouses and stores, took a leaf from his father-in-law’s book and went into logging. Over time he achieved a small fortune in the lumber industry. In 1876, he moved his family to San Jose in the vicinity of San Francisco for the purpose of making his permanent home there. There he participated in the mining industry, but without significant financial success. Less than a decade later in 1883, he decided to head south. He surveyed the area and settled upon buying property near Cucamonga.
Charlotte Milliken did not like the area and returned to San Francisco.
Milliken and his partner, G. D. Haven, in the words of a contemporaneous chronicler, “blew their wads” buying what was called Section Number 12 near the township of Cucamonga, between the two modern day avenues that bear their names.
In 1887, Daniel Milliken ventured $11,000 in that effort, which was initiated with buying 520 acres without any existing irrigation lying between Arrow Route and Eighth Street and west of Haven Avenue.
He and Haven planted their adjoining land with cuttings and started the first dry ranch in the area. According to Ruth Milliken, his granddaughter, “Some of the people around called them fools for ‘putting sticks in the ground.’”
John Brown and James Boyd, in their “History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties,” published in 1922, wrote that “They were men of capital, vision and determination, but they set the land to grapes, chiefly wine grapes, without providing irrigation. Their effort was scoffed at and they were almost openly called fools for putting the cuttings into the dry sand, inviting disaster. But the prophecies failed of grim realization, and, as a matter of fact, the plantation outlived its planter and returned a tremendous measure of profit, the example thus set encouraging a widespread development of this section to vineyards.”
To the amazement of the skeptics, the vines survived and produced.Once established, grapevines take in a sufficient amount of water during the winter and spring rains to withstand a dry summer season. And the sandy soil of Cucamonga provided a suitable growing culture for wine and table grapes and raisins.
Daniel B. Milliken is credited with either helping create or sustaining Cucamonga’s Chinatown. After the transcontinental railroad was completed, many of the Chineese coolies settled in San Francisco. Because of a lack of work, many took up residence in other parts of California.
Cucamonga’a Chinatown consisted of a dozen or so fragile wood houses, all attached, with red paper-covered doors located along the south side of San Bernardino Road between Klusman and Hellman avenues. These houses were run by a man named Denim and the village controlled by a Cantonese man named Toy. At the east end of the village was a livery stable. When horse traders came through Cucamonga, they would board their horses at the stable and would be invited in by the hospitable Chinese. The Chinese raised gourds and would let them dry, then scrape out the pulp and seeds to use them as bottles. They would use them to carry tea to the vineyards to drink on workdays, preferring tea to plain water.
Daniel Milliken, familiar with the Chinese from his time in San Francisco, was inclined to use them as workers. On one occasion, he had returned to San Francisco to see his wife, leaving in Cucamonga a black lang shang chicken he was fond of and which he kept as a pet. When he returned, the chicken had disappeared. He inquired of Puy, one of the Chinese he employed, about the fowl’s whereabouts. “Mister coyote came and looked at him and decided to eat him and so he ate him,” Puy explained. While Puy found humor in the situation, Daniel Milliken did not. Despite his resentment at having lost his pet chicken, Milliken continued to employ a large number of the residents of Chinatown, building for them a structure in which they would often sleep at night so they could begin work early in the morning.
The Chinese men were tremendous workers and would pick 1,000 pounds of grapes for ninety cents. The contemporaneous price for grape picking by other workers was four to five cents per 25 pounds. Because the Chinese were distrustful of paper money, Milliken was obliged to pay them in coin. Because of this, Milliken would have to drive his wagon and team to Ontario every payday to get coin from a bank.
In 1886, Newell Milliken, who had spent time as a miner in Idaho and other western states and was a cowboy working on ranges, joined his father in Cucamonga and thereafter was closely associated with the wine grape industry.
In 1891 Newell Milliken built a ranch house and shortly thereafter married Adelle Kate Sempel, who usually went by the name of Kate. She was born in Traverse-de-Sioux, Minnesota, October 11, 1864, the daughter of Frederic August and Anna Barbara (Herkelrath) Sempel. She was one of eight children. After coming to California she worked as a teacher in the public schools of Cucamonga before her marriage.
The following year, their daughter Ruth Milliken, was born.
Daniel Milliken’s grape growing operation was carried out in conjunction with G.D. Haven for more than fifteen years. Like Milliken, Haven had come to California originally as a prospector. Born in Ellisburg, New York in 1939 the son of Daniel Haven of Massachussetts who was a steamboat captain on the St Lawrence River, George Haven in 1859 went westward from Wisconsin, to which his parents had moved, first to Council Bluffs, Iowa and then Pike’s Peak, Colorado. He prospected along the American River, coming into contact with John Comstock of the Comstock lode fame. He subequently mined in Salt Lake City and in the Black Hills of Dakota. He built or acquired four mining mills there, selling them at a profit of $45,000. It was that fortune that he used in establishing the joint venture with Milliken.
On January 2, 1899, at the age of sixty-three, Charlotte Milliken died. Later that year, Daniel B. Milliken and G.D. Haven ended their business relationship on friendly terms and split their holdings. After that, Daniel Milliken built an expansive ranch house just west of Haven Avenue and Arrow Route.
Daniel Milliken was old-fashioned and seemingly fond of leading a spartan existence. He never incorporated many of the modern conveniences of the day into the abode. This primitive ethos in Milliken’s living arrangements may have played a part in Mrs. Milliken’s decision to remain in San Francisco much of the time her husband was establishing a grape-growing dynasty in Cucamonga.
“We didn’t have electricity until 1920,” Milliken’s grandson Daniel, who was born on May 12, 1904, said in 1978. Young Daniel Milliken grew up at the ranch. “We did have a telephone earlier than that, though,” he recalled, “which seems an odd thing.”
Reuben Morton, Daniel and Charlotte’s second oldest child, died in 1905, and his only son passed away in 1910. The two youngest of Daniel and Charlotte’s children, their third son, Richard, and their only daughter, Ashie Mae, moved to England.
It was at the Cucamonga ranch house that Daniel Brewer Milliken died at age 82 in September 1912.
Brown and Boyd wrote that “The faith and optimism of a pioneer was the distinctive quality in the character of the late Daniel Brewer Milliken, whose enterprise opened up a great and new source of wealth for the famous Cucamonga District of Southern California. He had all the ruggedness and dauntless spirit of the real argonauts, though he had very little success in gold mining and his prosperity was due to more permanent lines of industry.”
His passing left administration of the farm to Newell.
Newell was well educated in Mendocino County and at the San Jose High School, and he became an expert assayer, which stood him in good stead when he had engaged in mining in Idaho and other western states in the late 1870s and early 1880s. In addition to working on and later overseeing his father’s vineyards, Newell was the postmaster for eighteen years at the North Cucamonga Post Office, located in the old stagecoach station on Central Avenue., which housed the company store. Newell Milliken was also a deputy county assessor for fourteen years, specializing in sizing up the value of agricultural properties.
A staunch Republican, Newell was a member of the Central Committee for over a decade.
Only seven years after his father exited into eternity, however, Newell died on August 16, 1919.
Brown and Boyd wrote of him, “His was a strong and upright character, and the work he did and the influence he exercised made his death a source of inestimable loss to the community where he had lived so many years.”
His daughter Ruth, who had at that time been for two years the principal of the high school in Fort Bragg, came to Cucamonga to oversee the vineyard. Though she had little knowledge about grape cultivation, she jumped right in. In short order, she modernized operations, introducing electricity and gas-engined trucks. She continued to oversee the ranch, arising at 6 a.m. on a daily basis, and mounting a horse to ride between the rows of vineyards at 7 a.m. to supervise the work crews for 40 years.
Ruth’s sister, Mildred A. Milliken, was born January 23, 1900. She obtained a bachelor’s degree. from Pomona College in June, 1921, and continued her study of music at Pomona College Conservatory, being proficient as a pipe organist and pianist.
Daniel B. Milliken’s namesake and grandson, Daniel, attended high school in Claremont and graduated from Pomona College before getting his MBA at Harvard and PhD. at Claremont Graduate School. He subsequently become the president/superintendent of Chaffey College, where, in the 1970s, he was himself a student in Professor Donald Wright’s creative writing class, where he sat next to the writer of this history column.
Spiny Herb: Chorizanthe Rigida
Spiny herb, which bears the scientific name of Chorizanthe rigida and the alternate common names of devil’s spineflower, rigid spineflower, and rigid spiny-herb, is an annual plant in the Polygonaceae family sometimes referred to as buckwheats. A member of the genus Chorizanthe, the spiny herb is found in the southwestern United States and northwest Mexico, in the states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Baja California, and Sonora.
Chorizanthe rigida is commonly seen in the Mojave Desert in bajadas, washes and flat mesas that flood with annual rains, and rocky hillsides and ridgelines.
Paradoxically, the plant can be prominent shortly after blooming but is often overlooked as it withers, and it is sometimes hidden under clumps and not seen. On a roadside, its skeleton will be left as a single erect plant, with the taller plants being found in crevices where water pools. In desert flats, the short 3-inch plants are easily obscured by downstream-washed debris that accumulates on the spineflower skeleton. Thus small hillocks of debris are often found with a spineflower in the core. This potentially provides an advantageous form of germinating.
The Chorizanthe rigida plant is short, erect and sometimes single-stalked, but is also multi-stalked to five stalks or more, 2.5–6.0 inches in height. It grows rapidly, in particular after spring rains. With the onset of early summer it turns into a spine-skeleton. It has a main taproot, longer than the plant is tall, taking advantage of the rainfall’s ground moisture.
The devil’s spineflower is an extremely conspicuous bright green when freshly growing. When desiccated, its spiny skeleton is blackish, dark gray, or of medium browns and blends in easily with the desert background ground colors.
For the most part, in the Mojave Desert the rigid spineflower is mostly a 2.5 to 5 inch plant and is often not noticed when the plant goes dry.