Latest Ploy To Cashier Adelanto’s Top Code Enforcement Officer Comes Up Short

Steve Peltier, the City of Adelanto’s community safety manager, returned to work Monday for the first time since he was placed on paid administrative leave in February.
Peltier’s reinstatement to full duty came after investigators detailed to look into allegations leveled by Development Services Director Charles Rangel that Peltier had run afoul of city procedures and had engaged in activity that resulted in a hostile work environment impacting other city employees were unable to sustain the reports.
Peltier’s rivals had sought to exploit an incident in which Peltier had jostled a chair that had been displaced among other pieces of furniture from the code enforcement division in compliance with Rangel’s order to locate different divisions of the community services department in close proximity to one another. The rearranging of the furniture had taken place without Peltier having been informed beforehand it would take place.
The loud report and commotion of the chair being bounced about had startled another employee. Investigators determined that Peltier’s reaction, while ill-advised, was not a violation, per se, of any city rules or regulations.
It was also alleged that Peltier had engaged in intimidating behavior by glaring at another employee and engaging in some indistinct verbalization that was construed as a threat. When the individual against whom this was alleged to have been directed was either unwilling or unable to confirm the incident, the investigators had nothing upon which to proceed, and the matter was dropped.
There is a backstory to the circumstance involving Peltier.
Peltier was employed with the city for nearly seven years when in November 2014, a clean sweep of the incumbents up for election that year – then-Mayor Cari Thomas, and councilmen Charles Valvo and Steve Baisden – was effectuated with the respective victories of Rich Kerr, John Woodard and Charles Glasper. Shortly after they moved into office, both Kerr and Woodard joined forces with incumbent Councilman Jermaine Wright in an effort to reverse the city’s longstanding ban, which was identical to 22 of San Bernardino County’s other 23 cities, preventing entrepreneurs from invoking the provisions of 1996’s Proposition 225 The Compassionate Use of Marijuana Act to set up medical marijuana dispensaries or clinics in the city. Asserting the city stood to reverse its financial problems by getting in on the ground floor of California’s liberalization with regard to the use of marijuana for both medical and intoxicative purposes, Kerr, Woodard and Wright passed an ordinance to allow a set number of marijuana cultivation operations in the city’s industrial park district. Over the next three years, a multitude of city employees, including former City Manager Jim Hart, former City Engineer/Public Works Director/interim City Manager Tom Thornton, Senior Management Analyst Mike Borja, Conservation Specialist Belen Cordero and Public Works Superintendent Nan Moore, former City Clerk/City Manager Cindy Herrera, former City Manager Gabriel Elliott, former City Attorney Todd Litfin, former City Attorney Julia Sylva, former City Attorney Curtis Wright, former interim City Manager Brad Letner, former contract City Engineer Wilson So; former Assistant City Engineer Aaron Mower; former Senior Planner Mark De Manincor; former information technology division employees Ben Pina, Ibriham Abudluld and Adam Watkins, and a former public works employee, Jose Figueroa, left of their own volition, were forced or persuaded to leave or were outright fired as the troika of Kerr, Woodard and Wright pursued an even more aggressive program of bringing in cannabis-related businesses of all stripe – including cultivators, wholesalers, retailers and product manufacturers into the city.  As cannabis-related business applicants lined up at the planning counter in City Hall, many of them toting briefcases full of cash, questions began to emerge about exactly how and why top ranking city officials were pushing the agenda so hard, including waiving fees and certain regulations relating to the businesses. Word was spreading that several city officials were on the take, including Kerr, Woodard and Wright, along with Jessie Flores, the contract economic developer the city had hired to facilitate the marijuanficatioin of Adelanto. Many found confirmation of those rumors when Wright was arrested by the FBI in November 2017 and charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with taking a bribe from an undercover FBI agent posing as a marijuana distribution business applicant in exchange for a promise to protect the applicant from city regulators.
Unchastened by what had befallen their council colleague, Kerr and Woodard pressed on with their mission of licensing and permitting as many cannabis-related operations within the city as possible, ultimately promoting Flores to the position of city manager, and installing Rangel as development services director, confident both would carry our their directives.
Meanwhile, Peltier defied orders to have the city’s code enforcement division stand down in its enforcement of the city’s codes pertaining to cannabis-related enterprises and carry out only token inspections of those businesses. In response, Kerr, Woodard, Flores and Joy Jeannette, who was elected to the council with the financial assistance from cannabis-related business applicants in the special election held in June 2018 to replace Jermaine Wright, brought in the contract firm of JAS Pacific to carry out several key municipal operations with the actual intention of shuttering the city’s code enforcement department and having JAS take on that function, and laying Peltier off.
Ultimately, however, in a development reminiscent of what had happened four years previously, a complete changeover on the city council was made pursuant to the 2018 election, with Glasper, who is in the early throes of dementia, having been convinced to forego seeking election, and Kerr and Woodard turned out by the voters.
In the aftermath of the installation of the new council, which included Mayor Gabriel Reyes and councilmembers Stevevonna Evans and Gerardo Hernandez, the advocates of staying the course with regard to transforming Adelanto into the cannabis capital of California are counting upon Flores and Rangel being able to remain in place to facilitate the establishment of more than 80 marijuana related businesses.
For them, Peltier represents a threat on several levels. His encouragement of the officers serving below him to assiduously enforce the city’s codes with regard to cannabis businesses would end the free ride many of those applicants had come to rely upon in the hope they could establish their businesses on the cheap without having to go to the expense of coming into full and actual compliance with the city’s codes. Having Peltier in place carries with it the danger that he or his officers will take note of actual incidents of bribery that have occurred in conjunction with the applications for those business licenses. Peltier also represents a threat against the continuing tenure of Flores, who on more than one occasion has played fast and loose with the rules. Flores remaining in place is considered crucial to the concept of completing Adelanto’s transition to a marijuana-based economy.
As Peltier has defied the efforts to remove him and he has withstood the shots taken at him over and over, he has grown ever stronger. Reports now are that the cannabis industry has settled on seeking to filter money to the city’s current political leadership as part of an effort to get a majority of the council to replicate the atmospherics that existed under the Kerr-led council. Some have interpreted a proposal by Councilwoman Evans to form as a division at City Hall what is to be called the cannabis department, which is to be overseen by Rangel, as yet another effort to maneuver around Peltier’s dogged insistence on integrity in the application of the city’s codes.
Observers believe the way in which the lines of authority will be laid out if that proposal goes forward will be an indication if rumors circulating in the city to the effect that graft has seeped its way into the current council is true, the litmus test being whether Rangel will be allowed, or ordered, to exclude Peltier from participating in the future enforcement of the city’s codes relating to and inspections of cannabis-related businesses.
-Mark Gutglueck

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