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Monthly Archives: November 2017
Prosecutors Curtailing Wright’s Voting Privileges As Elected Official
By Mark Gutglueck
Federal authorities appear to have broken new ground in the prosecution of Adelanto City Councilman Jermaine Wright on charges of political corruption, having successfully enjoined him, short of a trial and conviction, from functioning in his capacity as an elected official.
Wright was arrested Tuesday November 7 by FBI special agents after he was named in a criminal complaint filed on November 6 charging him with bribery and seeking to arrange to have a restaurant he owned destroyed in an arson fire so he could collect $300,000 in insurance money.
On November 13, Wright, 41, appeared in U.S. District Court in Riverside before Magistrate Judge Kenly Kiya Kato, whereupon Wright was released after the posting of a $100,000 bond. Wright’s release was not allowed to proceed, however, until Wright agreed to undergo a mental health evaluation and follow-up treatment and to desist in participating in official Adelanto municipal proceedings in his capacity as an elected official while the criminal proceedings against him have yet to wend their way to a full adjudication. The restrictions on Wright, the mental health evaluation, together with his being required to turn over to federal authorities 12 firearms known to be registered to him were imposed on him in the form of a court order by Kato.
While there is precedent for taking weapons from a criminal defendant and at least some basis for seeking a mental health evaluation of prisoners or defendants in the context of a criminal proceeding, forcing an elected official to unilaterally surrender the authority, rights and/or privileges of elected status or office or to resign from that office absent a conviction appears to be a foray into new legal territory.
In scores of other previously known cases of political corruption alleged against office holders at the local, state and federal level, the government has stopped short of requesting that the defendant be removed from office or be deprived of the trappings of office, including the authority to vote on issues before the governmental entity the defendant was elected to represent or to engage in the public discussions of issues before that governmental entity.
In the case of Adam Clayton Powell, a Congressman representing Harlem in New York City, he remained in office and continued in his representation of his constituents, even as criminal proceedings against him progressed in the 1960s. Indeed, even after his conviction, Powell was reelected to Congress.
In a local case, the U.S. Justice Department through the U.S. Attorneys Office in Los Angeles carried out an investigation of Congressman Jerry Lewis beginning in 2006. That investigation into indications that Lewis and his family members received money or support from defense contractors in return for Lewis’ votes approving the government’s purchase of those contractors’ products and systems did not conclude until 2011, at which point no criminal charges were filed. Meanwhile, federal judges granted the U.S. Attorney’s Office several search warrants to obtain documents in Lewis’ Congressional office files. At no time, however, did the government attempt to disengage Lewis from his authority as an elected member of the House of Representatives. Lewis was able to use his authority and clout – as a member of Congress generally and especially as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and then as ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee – to parry legally and procedurally with prosecutors and investigators. And Lewis was able to use his position to tremendous benefit for himself, as he tapped into approaching $3 million available to him from his Congressional campaign funds to hire the law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, including that firm’s crisis-manager Theodore B. Olson, a former solicitor general, to represent him. Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher then arranged to hire the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles, Debra Wong Yang, who was heading up the investigation into Lewis.
In other less-acclaimed garden variety political corruption cases prosecuted by both federal and state prosecutors, there is no record of efforts to remove those being prosecuted from office or to undercut them by taking away their ability to function within the offices they held or hold prior to conviction, although routinely those convicted are stripped of their official elected positions upon conviction and in many cases where a plea arrangement is entered into without taking the cases to trial, a condition of the arrangement is that the accused resign from office.
In Wright’s case, the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean D. Peterson, as well as the FBI agents investigating the matter along with Joseph B. Widman, the chief of the Riverside Branch Office of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, appear to understand that Wright has presented them with an uncommon opportunity, both because of his lack of sophistication and what was referred to as his “outright stupidity.”
An illustration of this is that Wright, after interacting with an FBI informant, was put into contact with a first FBI undercover agent who offered Wright a $10,000 bribe to assist him with getting zoning clearance and assistance in neutralizing code enforcement activity with regard to a marijuana transportation business that undercover agent said he wanted to establish in Adelanto.
Wright later sought the informant’s assistance in locating an arsonist to burn down his restaurant, Fat Boyz Grill, in order to collect $300,000 in insurance money. The informant put Wright into touch with a second undercover FBI agent, who agreed to do the job for $1,500.
Thereafter, FBI agents closed in on Wright, and armed with evidence that Wright was taking bribes and soliciting an arsonist, obtained his confession and an agreement to cooperate with them in future operations against suspected bribe takers in Adelanto.
Wright, however, once again returned to the same FBI informant who had delivered him into the hands of the first two undercover FBI agents, seeking his assistance again in a cockamamie plot to have the informant beat him up so that Wright could claim he had suffered memory loss and could get out from under his commitment to cooperate with the FBI. Wright further solicited from the informant assistance in murdering the second undercover FBI operative.
Wright is implicated in the case at so many levels and beneath so many layers that he is virtually helpless before the onslaught of the charges that can be leveled against him by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He is being represented by overmatched Federal Deputy Public Defender Angela Viramontes.
Viramontes showed herself incapable of countering Peterson’s request that Kato order Wright to discontinue in his participatory role as a member of the Adelanto City Council.
The possibility now exists that in future public corruption cases, federal prosecutors will seek, using Wright’s case as a precedent, to have defendants precluded from acting in accordance with their authority as elected officials as a ploy to reduce the defendants’ leverage in defending themselves.
County Change To Donation Restriction Law Aimed To Curb Political Money Laundering
Prompted by a pending change in state law, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has layered onto its existing campaign financing regulations a requirement that candidates explicitly identify the originating source of donations that are provided to them by an agent or intermediary of the actual donor.
On October 31, the amending of a campaign finance limitation ordinance first approved in August 2012 was previewed and tentatively voted upon by the board. On November 14, the board of supervisors gave a second and confirming vote on amending the 2012 campaign finance reform ordinance, revising the disclosure and reporting requirements for contributions made to candidates through the agents or intermediaries of contributors.
On August 28, 2012, the board of supervisors adopted an ordinance, codified as San Bernardino County Code sections 12.4301 through 12.4318, which established a campaign contribution limit for all candidates for elected county offices and certain other related requirements. The per-donor contribution limit of $4,400 was based on the limit set forth in the Political Reform Act, which was derived from Assembly Bill No. 2146, sponsored by then Assemblyman Paul Cook in 2012, authorizing the California Fair Political Practices Commission to enforce the county’s ordinance pursuant to an agreement between the parties. That agreement has since been renewed three times, most recently through December 31, 2018.
The current version of the Political Reform Act sets forth certain reporting and disclosure requirements regarding contributions made to candidates indirectly by a contributor through an agent or intermediary of the contributor. The amendment to the county ordinance introduced on October 31 and passed on November 14 revises County Code section 12.4306 to make it comport with Section 27 of AB 249, authored by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, known as the California Disclose Act, which amends the California Political Reform Act effective January 1, 2018. Mullin’s bill revises the reporting and disclosure requirements of the Political Reform Act with respect to contributions made to candidates by a contributor who hands the money off to a second party before it reaches its intended end recipient. AB 249 spells out when a contribution is considered “earmarked” for a candidate, what the reporting and disclosure requirements are for the contributor, the agent or intermediary, and the recipient of such contributions, and when such requirements are triggered.
The proposed amendment to San Bernardino County Code section 12.4306 was reviewed by FPPC staff on October 24, 2017. The ordinance amendment shall take effect on January 1, 2018 to coincide with the effective date of AB 249.
County Supervisors Let Reliable Campaign Donor Transfer Lucrative Franchises
Early this month, AMR, an ambulance company that has proven to be one of the most generous and consistent donors to members of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors’ political campaigns over the years, sought permission from those same supervisors to pass its franchise on the exclusive provision of emergency medical transport service in a circumscribed area along to another company that is buying AMR out.
On November 14, The board of supervisors acceded to AMR’s request.
In granting that permission, the board was not acting directly but rather in the capacity of an adjunct governing panel.
The Inland Counties Emergency Medical Agency oversees emergency service provision issues in San Bernardino, Mono and Inyo counties. With the permission of the boards of supervisors in Mono and Inyo counties, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors acts as the governing body of the Inland Counties Emergency Medical Agency. The Inland Counties Emergency Medical Agency is known by its acronym, ICEMA. ICEMA is charted “to ensure an effective system of quality patient care and coordinated emergency medical response by planning, implementing and evaluating an effective emergency medical services system including prehospital providers, specialty care centers and acute care hospitals.”
On May 8, 2012, the San Bernardino County Board of supervisors, acting as the ICEMA board of directors, approved Agreement No. 12-254 with American Medical Response, which itself goes by the acronym AMC, to provide advanced life support services. Section XXII with the general provisions of that agreement states “This agreement shall not be assigned or transferred, nor may the duties hereunder be delegated, without the express permission from ICEMA. Similarly, any change in ownership equal to or greater than fifty percent (50%) of provider’s company shall be considered a form of assignment of this agreement, and must be approved by ICEMA, provided that ICEMA shall not unreasonably withhold its approval of such change in ownership.”
Recently, Air Medical Group Holdings, Inc. arrived at an agreement with American Medical Response to purchase 100 percent interest in the portion of American Medical Response’s division, AMR HoldCo, Inc., which includes all of its San Bernardino County operations.
In a report authored by Thomas G. Lynch, the emergency medical services administrator for San Bernardino County, which was dated November 14 but which was written prior to that date, Lynch stated, “Air Medical Group Holdings, Inc. will acquire 100 percent of AMR, but the name, provider number, management and local operations of the local AMR provider will not change. AMR’s transaction with Air Medical Group Holdings, Inc. will impact only the ultimate parent company of AMR. None of the terms and conditions of the agreement will be changed. In accordance with Contract No. 12-254 and its amendments, AMR is requesting ICEMA’s signature acknowledgment and approval of AMR’s assignment and change in ownership.”
Lynch recommended that the board agree to the transition, which it did.
It is unknown at this point whether Air Medical Group Holdings, Inc. will prove as generous toward the members of the board of supervisors as American Medical Response has been.
American Medical Response has been able to convert largesse provided to the electioneering efforts of the board of supervisors into highly lucrative franchise arrangements, including exclusive operating zones over large swaths of the county and within many of the county’s communities.
There have been charges over the years that the favoritism displayed toward American Medical Response is contrary to the best interest of some county residents in that the exclusive operating zones result in a monopoly by American Medical Response, and that lack of competition has allowed American Medical Response to escalate the prices it charges for the service it renders to its customers.
American Medical Response was not the first ambulance operator in San Bernardino County to utilize a formula of hefty donations to elected county decision makers to enhance its profitability to the detriment of county residents. That formula was first applied by Mercy Ambulance.
Mercy had formed in the late 1970s, when Terry Russ, Homer Aerts, Steve Dickmeyer and Don Reed, all of whom operated ambulance companies on the west and central portion of San Bernardino’s Inland Valley and had been competing against one another for years, smoked a peace pipe and resolved to merge their operations into one, consolidating and streamlining their dispatch service, and better coordinating it with local fire and police departments. Through efficiencies and the sharing of resources, they were able to overwhelm the other ambulance operators they were in competition with, lower their prices, and induce most of those competitors to either go out of business, merge with them or sell out to them. After pooling their money and initiating a program of making substantial political contributions to local politicians at both the city and county level, Russ, Aerts, Dickmeyer and Reed then used this newfound political clout and influence to have both the county board of supervisors and various city councils “regulate” the ambulance industry, which included essentially adopting as the minimum requisites for an ambulance operation within their jurisdictions the vehicle, equipment and employee training standards Mercy had in place. The politicians were able to do so by asserting that this enhanced public safety.
Thus, Mercy Ambulance established a political hammerlock on the region. Keeping up its pace of donations to the county’s top local elected officials, the consortium gobbled up ever more key franchises, making its operation yet more lucrative. In turn, the company would use a small percentage of the profits it was generating to increase the scope of its political contributions. In return, the grateful politicians ensured that Mercy retained its competitive advantage over its rivals, giving Mercy plum franchises in the county’s most heavily populated areas. While what Mercy established fell slightly short of being an outright monopoly, it was at that point capable of controlling the ambulance market at will. It then began raising its prices, making up for the rate cuts it had instituted to obtain market dominance and then raising its service rates to a point where customers were openly complaining about being gouged.
Those complaints had little effect, however. As Mercy solidified and expanded its domination of the local ambulance industry and it grew to become preeminent among the county’s campaign donors, the county and many of its cities moved to create franchises in which a single ambulance company was allowed to operate and from which any other companies were prohibited from operating. Not surprisingly, in San Bernardino County Mercy was granted the lion’s share of these exclusive franchises, not to mention the most lucrative ones.
As Mercy grew, so did the scope of its operations and its power. The company added helicopters to its line of service and extended its reach all over 20,105-square mile San Bernardino County – a land area the size of four New England states. But as Russ, Aerts, Dickmeyer and Reed aged and grew wealthier, they began, slowly at first, to disengage from and then inevitably pulled out of the stressful emergency response business entirely. A first step in that direction was selling off – at considerable profit – the Mercy Air wing. Thereafter, they sold or let their heirs take on the ground ambulance fiefdom that Mercy represented, and they withdrew into a retirement of luxury and comfort.
It was at that point that American Medical Response came into San Bernardino County as the new kid on the block. As Mercy withdrew, American Medical Response filled the vacuum, simultaneously taking a leaf out of Mercy Ambulance’s playbook, and it too made hefty political contributions. Over time, ICEMA came to confer upon American Medical Response favored status in San Bernardino County that would rival that of Mercy Ambulance a generation before.
Visual Proof There Is Something About A Girl In A Uniform
21 U.S. Female Veterans Have Traded Their Military Garb To Pose In A Popular Fundraiser Calendar Photographed In The Inland Empire
A diverse group of veterans representing all branches of the military have swapped their combat boots and uniforms to become 1940s-style calendar girls in the twelfth annual Pin-Ups For Vets fundraiser calendar, which was released in August. From an ammo specialist to a military vehicle operator, to a gunners’ mate, to an intel officer, to a surgery technician on the front lines, to a weapons instructor, these female veterans have collectively served a total of 145 years in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard.
Decked out in retro hairdos and vintage fashions, these female veterans are making volunteering glamorous, as they visit VA hospitals across the country on their “50-State VA Hospital Tour” to boost morale and to deliver the pin-up calendars as gifts of appreciation to their fellow veterans. These ladies are enthusiastically embracing their femininity, post military service. The veteran patients often tell them, “When you are here, my pain is gone!”
Pin-Ups For Vets has donated over $56,000 to help VA Hospitals purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for Veterans’ healthcare program expansion across the United States.
Pin-Ups For Vets 2018 calendar model and Army Veteran, Michelle Rivera, who served 7 years, says, “I wanted to be a part of the calendar because it’s important for me to find ways to give back to other vets, especially those that went before me. I’m a proud third generation Army veteran. I love what Pin-Ups for Vets does, particularly for hospitalized vets, beyond raising money for medical equipment or services. Pin-Ups For Vets lifts these Vets’ spirits, and there’s no dollar amount that can buy that! I also love that female Veterans are part of the calendar, giving us an opportunity to show people another side of women veterans.”
This year, a milestone for the Pin-Ups For Vets Ambassadors will be delivering a calendar to the 12,000th veteran on their VA hospital tour.
Pin-Ups For Vets raises funds to improve veterans’ healthcare, donates funds to VA hospitals for medical equipment and program expansion, improves quality of life for ill veterans across the United States through personal bedside visits to deliver gifts, promotes volunteerism at veterans hospitals, supports homeless veterans with clothing and calendar gifts delivered to shelters, lifts the spirits of military wives and female veterans with makeovers and clothing, and boosts morale for deployed troops through delivery of care packages.
The 2018 calendars are $15. They are available for purchase at PinUpsForVets.com or by check to to: Pin-Ups For Vets, PO Box 33, Claremont, CA 91711.
The Veterans Health Administration is the component of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) led by the Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health that implements the medical assistance program of the VA through the administration and operation of numerous VA hospitals, VA medical centers, outpatient clinics, community-based outpatient clinics.
The VA has experienced an increase in demand on its health system and provision of services to veterans in recent decades and in particular the last several years. Of the nearly 250,000 veterans involved in overseas conflicts between 2001 and 2016, 44 percent of those, primarily Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, utilized services offered by the VA medical system. That contrasts with the 10 percent usage rate of the VA by Vietnam veterans. There has been a considerable uptick in treatment demand as a consequence of the enemy’s use of improvised explosive devices, as well as the increased sensitivity to the realities and actuality of post traumatic stress syndrome, along with the techniques to diagnose it.
The VA and VA medical centers prioritize providing treatment to veterans with service-connected disabilities, veterans determined to be unemployable due to service-connected conditions, veterans who are former prisoners of war, veterans awarded the Purple Heart Medal, veterans awarded the Medal of Honor, veterans whose discharge was for a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, veterans in need of vocational rehabilitation because their service resulted in injury or trauma that entailed the loss of their previous skill set or professional capability, veterans who have been rendered permanently housebound because of their service, and veterans exposed to chemicals or to ionizing radiation.
Pinups, while existing for decades, came into tremendous vogue during World War II among American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines as a consequence of their being stationed at remote locations far from the home front. Consisting of drawings, paintings, and other illustrations as well as photographs featuring glamour models, fashion models, or actresses often in provocative or suggestive poses were mass produced in magazines, calendars and posters. After the war effort was well under way, nine million copies of magazines containing the art of a single pin up artist who was universally deemed particularly skilled at his craft, Alberto Vargas, were produced without adverts and sent free of charge to American troops stationed overseas and in domestic bases as morale boosters.
Pin-Ups For Vets has received Congressional recognition, and has been honored by the California Senate, California Assembly, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Los Angeles Business Journal, California Jaycees Foundation and Junior Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Women Business Owners. There have also been nine flags flown above military bases and on missions in Iraq and Afghanistan in honor of the work Pin-Ups For Vets has done for the military and veteran community.
The 2018 Pin-Ups For Vets Fundraiser Calendar was photographed at the historic Hofer Ranch in Ontario.
Pin-Ups For Vets’ first donation went to the Loma Linda VA Hospital.
According to Pin-Ups For Vets founder Gina Elise, “We love to photograph here in the Inland Empire.”
Elise grew up in San Bernardino County and graduated from Rim of the World High School and also took classes at Cal State University San Bernardino before graduating from UCLA. The 2018 version of the calendar can be purchased at: PinUpsForVets.com
In $18M State Pact, County Agrees To Host Program To Ready Mad Inmates For Trial
The county board of supervisors has again extended Liberty Healthcare of California, Inc.’s highly lucrative contract to provide restoration of mental competency services to inmates declared incompetent to stand trial, this time for $17,975,520 on an arrangement to run for the three years beginning on January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2020. The contract contains an option to extend for two additional one-year periods.
The agreement with Liberty will entail the county committing a significant amount of the space within the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga to house inmates originating from outside of San Bernardino County who will be evaluated and treated by Liberty’s psychological and psychiatric professionals.
Under the terms of this and parallel arrangements, the county is supposed to be provided with reimbursements from the State of California intended to offset, or more than offset, the county’s outlay. The county’s commitment to Liberty was one that was chosen not by the county directly but rather because of the state’s previous contractual relationship to Liberty.
The California Department of State Hospitals is responsible for returning to competency individuals charged with a felony who have been determined to be incompetent to stand trial by California Superior Courts. Once an individual is committed to a California State Hospital facility for treatment, the facility has 90 days to make a written report to the court concerning the defendant’s progress toward recovery of mental competence.
Previously and currently, the California Department of State Hospitals had and has insufficient beds within the state hospitals, thereby creating lengthy waiting lists of inmates in county jails, including those in San Bernardino County, who are in need of mental competency restoration services. To address that shortage, the California Department of State Hospitals contracted with and is continuing to contract with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department to provide access to portions of the West Valley Detention Center to administer the jail based competency treatment program and provide inmates, from San Bernardino County and other Southern California counties, with restoration of competency treatment services similar to those provided in state mental hospitals for up-to 96 patient inmates at any one time. The state and the sheriff’s department maintain that the program allows inmates to begin treatment faster and significantly decreases the time the inmates remain incarcerated due to a faster adjudication of their criminal charges.
On April 21, 2015 the county board of supervisors approved Agreement No. 15-195 with the California Department of State Hospitals to administer the jail based competency treatment program at the West Valley Detention Center from June 1, 2015 through May 31, 2016 and for the sheriff’s department to provide a 76-bed jail based competency treatment program for inmates determined to be incompetent to stand trial. On May 3, 2016, the board of supervisors approved Agreement No. 16-196 to continue the jail based competency treatment program through May 31, 2017; and an amendment on April 18, 2017 to extend the jail based competency treatment program through December 31, 2017.
The California Department of State Hospitals has requested to continue the jail based competency treatment program and increase its capacity to 96 beds, reimbursing the county for an amount up to $40,996,800 for the period of January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2020 for competency restoration services, transportation of inmates, and administration of the jail based competency treatment program. The county will provide jail based competency treatment via staff as well as through Liberty.
Sheriff’s captain Robert O’Brine in a report dated November 14, 2017, told the board of supervisors, “The California Department of State Hospitals will reimburse the sheriff’s department up-to $40,996,800 (96 beds x $390 x 1,095 days) to cover both the direct and indirect costs associated with the designated space, personnel, and services, including medication, for the care of up to 96 patient inmates admitted into the jail based competency treatment program. The contract with Liberty Healthcare of California, Inc. provides for compensation to Liberty for the provision of clinical personnel and delivery of services necessary to restore mental competency of inmates. The amount of the contract shall not exceed $17,975,520 (96 beds x $171 x 1,095 days). Appropriation and revenue in the amount of $10.9 million was included in the sheriff department’s 2017-18 Budget. The remaining appropriation and revenue will be included in a future quarterly budget adjustment.”
In compliance with O’Brine’s and sheriff John McMahon’s recommendation that they do so, the board of supervisors on November 14 agreed to enter into the arrangements with California Department of State Hospitals and Liberty.
Having Barely Beaten 2014 Dem Foe, Hagman Facing Serious 2018 Challenge
Having already defied long political odds, Fourth District San Bernardino County Supervisor Curt Hagman will face an even more challenging assignment next year in attempting to hang on to the position he now holds.
When 2014 began, Hagman’s prospect of moving into the Fourth District San Bernardino County Supervisor’s post appeared dim at best. The incumbent in the position was Gary Ovitt, like Hagman, a Republican. Ovitt, the then-mayor of Ontario had outdistanced then-Chino Mayor Eunice Ulloa in a specially scheduled 2004 balloting to replace Patty Aguiar, the temporary holder of the position after her husband, Fred Aguiar, had departed to become a high ranking official in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s gubernatorial administration in 2003. Ovitt had been reelected convincingly in 2006 and 2010 and had the power of incumbency going into 2014. Ovitt’s strongest challenger appeared to be Gloria Negrete-McLeod, a one-term incumbent member of Congress, who had previously served six years in the California Senate, six years in the California Assembly and who had been a member and then president of the Chaffey College Board of Trustees prior to that.
In addition, Ontario City Councilman Paul Vincent Avila and Chino Unified School District Board Member James Na were interested in competing for the post.
In early 2014, voter registration in the Fourth District, which contained within its confines Chino Hills, Chino, Montclair and Ontario, decidedly favored Democrats. In April 2014, 64,985 of the district’s 158,046 voters, or 41.1 percent, were registered Democrats and 51,176, or 32.4 percent were Republicans. Because she was so well financed and because she held the prestige of being a member of Congress, Negrete-McLeod seemed best fixed to give Ovitt a run for his money. Ovitt, nonetheless, was not shrinking from the situation, believing he could count upon his already substantial campaign war chest and an infusion of funds from generous Republican Party donors to prevail.
Hagman, who was due to be turned out of the Assembly as of the end of 2014 after three two-year terms in Sacramento because of term limits, would have needed to challenge an incumbent Republican Party California State Senator to remain in state office. He opted to move one step down the political food chain to claim the position of Fourth County supervisor.
To do so, however, required Hagman to pull off a political hat trick. His first move was to befriend former state Assemblyman and state Senator Jim Brulte, who was moving in 2013 to become the chairman of the California Republican Party. Having formed an alliance with Brulte, who was proposing an energetic, if still quixotic, effort to wrest political control of the Golden State from the Democrats, Hagman then moved to depose Robert Rego as the chairman of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee. Rather than engaging in a knock down drag out Donnybrook with Rego, Hagman and his forces arranged to sweeten Rego’s exodus, offering him an important role in the party both locally and statewide down the road if he would simply agree to step down at the county level. Through this use of tact and politesse, Hagman and Brulte preserved the upside of Rego’s direction of the party, by which the Republicans in San Bernardino County turned out at the polls in far greater numbers than their Democratic counterparts despite the burgeoning Democratic registration countywide. Rego had previously sought to smooth over rivalries between locally competing Republicans. And even though Hagman and Brulte eased Rego out the door, they managed to do so without having Rego turn on the party, and Rego continued to assist them in the first order of business, which consisted of convincing party donors that they should continue to stock the party’s coffers with money.
From his enhanced position as county party chairman, Hagman then prevailed upon Ovitt to go quietly into the good night and opt out of running for reelection. Negrete-McLeod had at that point firmly resolved to leave as Congresswoman, she said, because she had grown to dread the bi-weekly California to Washington D.C. commute. She, too, now coveted the Fourth Supervisorial post, pitting her in the 2014 June primary against Hagman, Na and Avila.
In the June balloting, Negrete-McLeod prevailed, capturing 10,180, or 41.93 percent of the total 24,376 votes cast. Hagman pulled down 9,982 votes, of 41.12 percent; Na captured 2,313 or 9.53 percent, and Avila polled 1,801 votes or 7.42 percent.
Against the backdrop of the Democrats widening their voter registration advantage statewide, in Southern California, regionally, in San Bernardino County and in the Fourth Supervisorial District, Hagman and his political team put on a spirited and aggressive effort against Negrete-McLeod in the November election campaign. Despite Negrete-McLeod’s advantages in terms of far greater Democratic registration numbers in the Fourth District and her seeming upper hand, as an incumbent federal office holder over Hagman as a state office holder, Hagman eked out a victory, albeit by a rather narrow margin, 24,480 votes, or 52.11 percent of the 46,982 votes cast to Negrete-McLeod’s 22,502 votes or 47.89 percent.
In the last three years, Hagman’s hold on the Fourth Superviorial District scepter has grown somewhat tenuous as the result of a number of factors.
The registration numbers favoring Democrats over Republicans in the Fourth District, and thus disadvantaging Hagman, are continuing to move lopsidedly in favor of the Democrats. As of this week, 71,509 or 43 percent of the 166,283 registered voters in the Fourth District are Democrats, while 46,515 or 28 percent are Republicans.
Afoot within the San Bernardino County Democratic Central Committee is an effort to oust that body’s chairman, Chris Robles. Growing numbers of local Democrats have become disenchanted with Robles’ performance in the role of county party chairman, as during his tenure the Democrats have not made gains in Democrats holding office commensurate with their growing registration advantage. Indeed, it is Hagman’s 2014 victory over Negrete-McLeod that many of the Democrats now attempting to make a case against Robles with party leaders in Sacramento are referencing. Accordingly, whether the faction looking to oust Robles, who is by profession a political campaign consultant, is successful or not, it appears those in the local Democratic Party will be uniformly focused on replacing Hagman with a Democrat in 2018.
Recently, Hagman has been touted, at least in some quarters, for his success in interesting investors in committing substantial monetary resources into local businesses and ventures as well as supporting certain public-private enterprises. Yet, much of that investment is originating with Asian banking institutions and wealthy Asian investors. Even if that development is gladly received in Chino Hills, where Hagman was a member of the city council and mayor before he acceded to the state Assembly, among a considerable segment of his constituency elsewhere, foreign investment, and in particular Asian investment, in the local economy is not viewed positively. For his perceived relationship to these foreign investors, Hagman may experience those he represents extracting a political price, punishing him at the ballot box next year.
Whereas Hagman’s strength in 2014 rested largely on his Republican bona fides, the solidity of GOP support for him next year is not at this point an absolute given. On this score alone, there have been two developments that might undercut him.
Since coming into office, Hagman has installed into a significant number of the positions in his office government employees and government officials. Right off the bat, he hired Mike Spence, who had been his chief of staff when he was in the Assembly, as his chief of staff in his role as San Bernardino County supervisor. In addition to being Hagman’s chief of staff when Hagman was in the Assembly, Spence had previously been the chief of staff for then-assemblyman Joel Anderson (R- El Cajon). And Spence was a creature of government himself, with a political career of his own as West Covina city councilman and mayor.
Also as supervisor, Hagman hired Chino Hills City Councilman/Mayor Ed Graham, whom Hagman had previously employed in his Assembly office, as his senior field representative. When Graham, who had been a public employee most of his life surpassed the retirement age of 65 and retired last year, Hagman replaced him with another government insider, Graham’s Chino Hills City Council colleague, Peter Rogers.
Last year, Hagman hired longtime Ontario City Councilman Alan Wapner, himself a retired Ontario police officer, as his policy adviser.
Republicans, historically and more recently, particularly in California, represent a bulwark against what they have characterized as a trend toward socialism, including the growth of government. A roiling issue in this regard is the degree to which public employees, through their unions, have exhibited control over the electoral process. By pooling their money, oftentimes in the form of union dues which are sometimes augmented with voluntary or involuntary contributions, and using that cash to back candidates of their choice, particularly ones willing to raise public employee salaries and benefits, most especially public employee pensions, public employees have come to exercise an influence over government in greater proportion than their actual numbers. Overwhelmingly, the candidates the public unions support, in California and nearly everywhere else in the United States, are Democrats.
In this way, Hagman’s advancement of public employees and public officials into key positions in his supervisorial office puts him in danger of falling out of step with the mainstay of his political support.
The greatest hazard to Hagman’s political future, however, may consist of what at least seemed to be the implosion of Spence last year.
If Hagman had a defense against those knocking his trend of staffing his office with creatures of government and longtime public employees, the primary exhibit in that defense would have been Mike Spence. Though he was a longtime public employee, Spence was not in league with the public employee unions. Spence was considered Hagman’s alter ego and was in many respects indistinguishable from Hagman himself, offering a reflection of their shared pro-business, pro-economic development ethos favoring the private sector over public sector superimposition of excessive regulation and bureaucracy. Spence is an anti-tax advocate who has long crusaded for cutting government red tape and alleviating the financial burden on taxpayers. Among his bona fides is that at the age of 32 in 1998, he was so spirited in his efforts to prevent the City of West Covina from imposing several hundred dollar-per year assessments on homeowners that City Hall sued him over that opposition. Ultimately, the city was unsuccessful with that lawsuit and, inspired by his example at fighting City Hall, the city’s voters rejected the proposed tax increase. Later, he was elected to the city council, rotating into the position of mayor.
In June 2016, however, Spence was involved in a single-vehicle traffic accident in the neighboring City of Covina. Toxicology tests determined he was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the accident. Ultimately, Spence was convicted of a misdemeanor driving under the influence offense. Hagman fired him a year ago.
While Hagman’s and Spence’s shared “Republican values” including principles of social conservatism and pro-law enforcement concepts virtually dictated that Hagman would need to part company with Spence, the impact to the Hagman political machine from the loss of Spence is nearly incalculable. Spence was the architect of Hagman’s winning 2014 strategy. Spence game planned how to dictate the terms of the campaign from the beginning, and he formulated the campaign’s responses to the moves by the Negrete-Mcleod campaign on the fly. Spence provided the steady nerve needed in the face of developments that might have rattled other campaign managers into overreacting. He ensured that Hagman’s shots were well-placed and done with sufficient frequency, in proper numbers and with effective depth and reach.
A demonstration of Spence’s political dynamism is that this week, 17 months after his accident and just two weeks less than a year following his guilty plea to driving under the influence, he was elevated by his council colleagues in West Covina to the post of mayor as part of the traditional rotation of members of the council. In getting that appointment, Spence overcame suggestions the council should have skipped over him because of his faux pas last year. That Spence was still in office this week and that he was able to withstand the constant calls for him to resign while maintaining his elected position and political authority in the face of the DUI incident is a tribute to his political constitution and attests to his ability to negotiate the vicissitudes of political existence.
That facility is now no longer with the Hagman political machine and will not likely be available when the campaign for Fourth District supervisor begins next year.
Forum… Or Against ’em
By Count Friedrich von Olsen
In the mad rush to condemn Donald Trump, his political opponents are demonizing him for the relationship he has cultivated over many decades with the Russians. It seems to me, the animus fueling this condemnation is partisan in nature, one that is disguised or falsely represented as ideological in origin and which is based not at all upon factual accuracy…
The inference those attacking our president want us to draw from the jumble of rhetoric and three-quarter, half- and quarter- truths they cast about is that the leader of the West is either in league with the Communists as a longtime sleeper agent to overthrow the various regimes of the Free World, including that of the United States, or he is a dupe of the Russians, or variously, being blackmailed by the KGB. All of these scenarios are so far-fetched that none of them can be true…
It used to be that the Democrats complained that the Republicans were unfairly making false accusations that the Democrats – who espoused liberal social welfare programs akin to socialism – had become fellow travelers with the Kremlin. Now the situation has reversed itself and it is the Democrats who are making false accusations that the Republicans – who are espousing an economic alliance and stronger business ties with the Russians in the face of a rapidly changing global marketplace – have become fellow travelers with the Kremlin…
The reality is that the Democrats are debasing themselves by opportunistically latching onto hackneyed and outdated mischaracterizations of the “Soviet” threat in an effort to evoke a conditioned kneejerk response from an unthinking segment of the American public in an effort to achieve a political advantage in the interminable struggle with the Republicans for political primacy…
Back in the late 1980s, during what was Ronald Reagan’s last year in office, I was having a conversation with a friend and his wife in which we were sizing up the Reagan presidency. My friend’s wife, a Democrat, was not, for the most part, too charitable in her view of what President Reagan had accomplished. She did, however, pay him and his performance as chief executive one compliment, which at this point I believe appropriate to cite. She said that despite President Reagan’s penchant for what was referred to as “conservatism,” that he fortunately was not so mentally rigid and ideologically blinded that he still possessed the mental agility to recognize Mikhail Gorbachev was a “modern Russian” who was not himself so rigidly wedded to the precepts of the Soviet system that he could not compromise in a very real and very substantive way. She said that to his credit, Ronald Reagan had been able to seize upon the prospect for accommodation this presented, and that he had capitalized upon it. We did not know at that time, though there were signs, of what was to come. A few years later, the Soviet Empire crumbled, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics de-unionized and became the independent nations that now inhabit the modern map. A few years later, in what was arguably the most dramatic moment of the 20th Century, Boris Yeltsin stood up to support Mr. Gorbachev when the reactionary and backward-looking remnants of the USSR and the KGB staged an ultimately unsuccessful coup attempt…
We are now at a similar point. It is time for the American people to recognize that President Trump is a modern American who recognizes the United States can work with the new Russia and that Russia is our country’s natural ally and potentially our most engaging trading partner. And it is time for the American people to stand up and support President Trump against the reactionary and backward-looking remnants of the failed and discredited political class to prevent them from taking us back to a point in history we have wisely removed ourselves from…
Report About Money In Adelanto City Hall Creates Confusion
In the Sentinel’s November 10 coverage of the FBI’s arrest, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s prosecution, of Adelanto City Councilman Jermaine Wright, reference was made to an incident shortly after the City of Adelanto legalized the cultivation of marijuana within the city’s industrial park district.
According to those present and others knowledgeable about operations at City Hall, one day while large numbers of applicants filed into City Hall, city officials on hand were confronted with several people toting satchels, briefcases and suitcases filled with cash, prompting a decision by then-city manager Cindy Herrera to shut City Hall down for the day to avoid the chance of wrongdoing or misinterpretation.
Some have said the incident never occurred. They, however, are not willing to go on the record. Others insist large amounts of money were coming into City Hall. Another individual said that the account of City Hall’s closure and the suitcases of money was an unfortunate conflation of two separate events.
What is clear is that the prospect of a lot of money being generated in Adelanto through cannabis operations has created an unseemly frenzy.
The Quino Checkerspot
The Quino checkerspot, known scientifically as euphydryas editha quino, is a butterfly native to southern California and northwestern Mexico which is now endangered. Once well represented in the San Bernardino Mountains, it is now only rarely spotted there.
A member of the brush-footed butterfly family, Nymphalidae, the Quino checkerspot is a medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan of around one-and-one-quarter inches to one-and-a-half inches. The dorsal wing surface is a colorful checkerboard of brown, red and yellow spots. The Quino differs from other E. editha subspecies in that its spots tend to be a darker red.
It also differentiates itself through its size and larval and pupal phenotypes. The ventral side of the butterfly is dominated by a checkered red and cream pattern. Its abdomen has red stripes across the dorsal side. After a second molt, the Quino checkerspot is recognized by the dark black coloration and row of 8 to 9 orange tubercles on its back. Before the larvae first molt they are mostly yellowish. After first molt and before their second molt they are gray with black markings. The pupae are mottled black on a blue-gray background.
An obvious factor in the decline of the Quino checkerspot is urban development. Much of the historic scrub land that it occupied has been built over. The persisting habitat faces other threats. Invasive species, in the form of non-native plant life, along with fire suppression practices and overgrazing are three major hurdles facing the recovery of the Quino checkerspot. Nearly all of the blame lie in agricultural and urban development in southern California. Today, there are eight populations of the Quino known.
With its habitat having declined, the distribution and population of the Quino checkerspot has been greatly reduced during the last 100 years. Currently, the Quino checkerspot is consistently found in a very few locales, which are limited to Western Riverside County, southern San Diego County and northern Baja California, Mexico. The animal’s historic range once included much of coastal California south of Ventura County as well as the inland valleys south of the Tehachapi Mountains. Regardless, more than 75 percent of the butterfly’s original range has been lost. The range loss translates directly into population decline. Quino checkerspot butterfly populations appear to have decreased by more than 95 perectnt rangewide.
The Quino life cycle includes four distinct life stages: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), and adult, with the larval stage divided into 5 to 7 instars (periods be tween molts, or shedding skin). There is usually one generation of adults per year, although larvae may remain in diapause (summer dormancy) for multiple years prior to maturation.
Quino are exothermic (cold-blooded) and therefore require an external heat source to increase their metabolic rate to levels needed for normal growth and behavior. Within open, woody-canopy communities, larvae seek microclimates with high solar exposure for basking in order to speed their growth rate. Like most butterflies, adult Quino frequently bask and remain in sunny areas to increase their body temperature to the level required for normal active behavior.
Oviposition begins within a day of the female’s emergence, with females depositing masses of up to hundreds of eggs at the base of host plants. Most populations are monophagous, with females normally ovipositing on only one of several potential host species. Such plants include Plantago erecta and Orthocarpus densiflorus.
The eggs further develop into pre-diapause larvae whose goal is to enter diapause and reach the fourth instar before their annual host plants deteriorate with age. Thus, females try to enhance offspring survival by laying egg masses on cool moist slopes where host plant deterioration is most delayed. Once the larvae reach the diapause stage and become post-diapause larvae (pupae), they must grow by basking in the sunlight to regulate their body temperature. Larval body temperature is about 18 to 22 °F above ambient temperature, and the fastest growth rate occurs at 86-95 °F. They must receive enough exposure to the sun’s rays to terminate the diapause stage and become a fully-grown butterfly. Thus, the paradox is that these larvae no longer prefer the cool slopes of host plants they grew up on, as it produces shade to restrict growth.
Caterpillars in the genus Euphydryas are usually attacked by one to three parasitoid species, often by a species of Apanteles wasp (Braconidae), a species of Benjaminia wasp (Ichneumonidae), and a tachnid fly. Checkerspot butterflies have developed defense mechanisms to prevent predators from attacking. Larvae twitch in unison to repel predators, and, depending on the host plant of the population, the larvae, pupae, and adult butterflies are somewhat poisonous to vertebrates because they may ingest toxins from the plant.
Male Edith’s checkerspot butterflies exhibit polygyny and may mate with multiple females. Females, on the other hand, mate once or occasionally twice. Young females remain motionless on the ground in low vegetation for about an hour after emerging as an adult from the larva while their wings harden. During this time they cannot fly or easily reject courting males. Thus, the first mate to locate a female usually mates with her. Virgin females release a pheromone which attracts males. Hidden virgins are found by males after an average of fifty minutes.
There are at least two mechanisms evolved to prevent females from remating: physical and neurological/behavioral. The physical mechanism involves a literal physical barrier. When the male’s spermatophore is deposited into the female’s bursa copulatrix, the spermatophore has a long neck that can act as a mating plug to seal it and prevent further mating. When, however, second matings occur before the plug has hardened or if the plug erodes, the female lays eggs which have been predominantly fertilized by the sperm of the last male to mate, as the last sperm to enter and be stored in the spermatheca of the female is also usually the first to leave. The second, neurological, inhibition mechanism involves mate rejection behavior in which the female flaps and tries to escape. This behavior is stimulated by the neural sensation of bursal distention, which occurs in the presence of a spermatophore.
Most male reproductive effort is devoted to the acquisition of females, especially virgin females. Males often exhibit indiscriminate mate location behavior, which is characterized by males failing to distinguish between female conspecifics, that is, members of its own species, and other objects, frequently resulting in misdirected courtship or attempted copulation. In some cases, males become attracted to spider webs containing dead conspecifics, mistaking the motionless bodies in the webs for young females, and attempt copulation. This puts them at risk of death, showing that there is a risk of male mortality associated with indiscriminate mate location behavior. However, the benefit outweighs the cost, and indiscriminate mate location behavior prevails.
Edith’s checkerspot males sometimes form aggregations on patches of bare ground like ridges or peaks, and from these perches they dart after passing males and females of both their conspecifics and heterospecifics, and other species. This strategy is called perching. Another strategy is termed “patrolling” and consists of males wandering in search of mates. In years of low population density, the hilltopping behavior may become adaptive. In such instances, males concentrate in mating aggregations at the highest point of a slope and females must travel up the slope to mate. After mating, females return down the slope in order to minimize sexual harassment, and deposit eggs. Hilltopping occurs in small populations where there is a smaller chance for virgin females to encounter males before reaching the hilltop. Where populations are relatively dense; however, upslope movement may place these butterflies at a reproductive disadvantage.