3-to-2 Council Vote Confirms Reyes’ Removal Of Evans As Mayor Pro Tem

As was anticipated, Adelanto Mayor Gabriel Reyes with the support of two of his council colleagues this week removed Stevevonna Evans as mayor pro tem.
Reyes and Evans were elected mayor and to the city council last year as part of a citywide reform movement by which the controlling majority that was previously in place on the city council was dislodged. The previous regime, consisting of former Mayor Rich Kerr, former Councilman John Woodard, former Councilman Jermaine Wright succeeded by Councilwoman Joy Jeannette and the on again-off again participation of former Councilman Charlie Glasper, had worked toward and largely succeeded in transitioning the cash-strapped city which was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy toward a marijuana-based economy.
Kerr and his associates had promised that the revenue the city would generate from taxing marijuana and cannabis product sales would fill the city’s coffers. Along the way, however, City Hall appeared to be favoring certain would-be marijuana growers and purveyors, cutting them breaks on having to abide by city regulations and pass inspections, and allowing them to skip out on paying for permits and slide out from underneath the taxes they were to pay/collect with regard to their product sales. This led to suspicions that city officials were receiving kickbacks from those provided with favorable treatment, which resulted in the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, Securities and Exchange Commission and the IRS dispatching agents to monitor goings-on in the city. Wright was entangled in this dragnet, and was arrested when he was caught by the FBI taking a bribe in exchange for making arrangements to shield a cannabis-based business operation from city regulations. He was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and removed from office, and was ultimately replaced by Jeannette, who cooperated with Kerr and Woodard in welcoming cannabis-oriented businesses into town, a strategy  that entailed the promotion of contract economic development director Jessie Flores to the position of city manager. From that position, Flores propped the city’s doors open to allow one prospective cannabis entrepreneur after another to get licensed to do business in the city.
After the November 2018 election Kerr, Woodard and Glasper were replaced by Reyes, Evans and Gerardo Hernandez.
Though Hernandez in the immediate aftermath of the trio’s installation on the council linked up with incumbent Councilman Ed Camargo in an effort to reverse the direction the Kerr regime had taken the city in by terminating Flores, that effort was countered by Reyes and Evans, who voiced the need to be cautious with regard to a precipitous destabilization of City Hall. Jeannette, who remained committed to the program instituted by Kerr, voted with Reyes and Evans to keep Flores in place.
Reyes and Evans stuck with Flores despite revelations that under his watch as city manager the city had neglected to make assiduous collection of the tax revenue that was supposed to be generated by the cannabis industry in town and thereby prevent the city from falling into financial ruin. Moreover, the council also learned that under Flores the city had been indolent in its financial accounting, such that the precise amount of uncollected marijuana tax revenue was unknown, running somewhere between an estimated $1.6 million on the low side to as much as $4.8 million.
Simultaneously, the cannabis-related business interests in the city, along with Kerr, initiated a heavy duty lobbying campaign, accompanied by the provision of generous political donations to the newly composed city council, to convince the three newcomers to stay the course of marijuanifying Adelanto.
This led to accusations being leveled against Reyes and Evans that they, like Kerr, Woodard and Wright before them, were being bribed by members of the cannabis industry.  Meanwhile, Camargo and Hernandez on more than one occasion this winter, this spring and early this summer made runs at Flores in an effort to have him terminated. None of those efforts succeeded.
Within the last three weeks, it appeared that a third vote to cashier Flores had materialized, as Evans gave indication she wanted yet another evaluation of Flores’ performance as city manager, along with an option to vote on his removal. Just as it appeared that Flores’ days, indeed hours, were numbered, Hernandez on August 14 reversed himself, and refused to go along with the effort to fire Flores.
At the same time, Reyes gave indication he was contemplating using his purview as mayor to remove Evans from the post of mayor pro tem – a position tantamount to vice mayor – and install Hernandez into that largely ceremonial but nevertheless prestigious post.
In response to widespread perception and expressions that he was deposing Evans to punish her for her move to dispense with Flores and was elevating Hernandez to reward him for supporting keeping Flores in place, Reyes made categorical denials, asserting that he had lost faith in Evans because he considered her to be untrustworthy, and his perception that she was militating against him politically.
On Wednesday night, Reyes said, “I am making a request to have Mayor Pro Tem Evans removed as mayor pro tem and I’ll motion that we appoint Jerry Hernandez as mayor pro tem.”
Evans responded, “I think it’s a travesty for this council to be replacing me as mayor pro tem just because I have a disagreement and grievance with the city manager. I have fulfilled all my duties as mayor pro tem, and I have been a strong advocate for our city. There is simply no legitimate reason for this action. It appears as a naked and purely political power move that is a dangerous precedent to be setting in our city. Any time you have a disagreement with an executive, it can be used as a pretext to remove you from official duties like a position as mayor pro tem. If that was not enough for some on this council to reconsider this action, I would like to point out that I think the action would be illegal and improper for several reasons. I am duly elected as mayor pro tem. All of you on this council voted me in, and I thanked all of you for that consideration at that time. Thus, in order to replace me, you must first remove me from this office. That item has never been agendized. Thus, it would be improper and illegal to remove me just based on the agenda item before us. It would be proper to reagendize this item if you truly want to proceed, which I again ask that you reconsider for the good of our council and our city. I think this action is improper and illegal because it is in violation of the custom and practice that this council of this city had for years. When a person is to be replaced, they are removed first.  The custom and practice should be followed with me. It would be discriminatory to replace me without first removing me as mayor pro tem because the city has faced the same situation before and has treated others in the city different than me in this instance.”
Evans made a motion to “table the item and get the procedure right.”
Reyes said, “Your representation of myself as mayor pro tem – I didn’t want to go into any discussions about this – but the trust is not there. This has nothing to do with your opinion or how you feel toward the city manager. You clearly have stated to me and several people that you have been lied to or you don’t trust the city manager. Mayor Pro Term, you have lied to me, and I don’t trust you.  So, how can I have you as my mayor pro tem?”
Reyes asked City Attorney Victor Ponto if it was accurate that a removal must precede a superseding appointment.
“Under the code there is no mandate that there needs to be a removal and then there’s an appointment,” Ponto said. “The city charter is pretty clear. It says the council has the option under Section C to appoint the mayor pro tem.”
Reyes asserted, “I have no political power. I have no political motive. My motive is the City of Adelanto, putting Adelanto first, whether the decisions are easy, hard or whatever the case may be. That’s the oath that I took. I didn’t take an oath to a party.  We’re a nonpartisan city. I am not influenced by the left, the right or the middle. This has no political agenda for me. At the end of the day, those two things: trust and being lied to.  You have your ground and motion to make your decision however you see fit. I’ve been outvoted and I’ve never had an issue with being outvoted, but if you’re my mayor pro tem and you’ve lied to me and the trust is not there and you’ve plotted behind my back to do things, I’m sorry: I can’t trust you. It’s that simple. It’s nothing more, nothing less. You want to make a statement to make it seem like there’s a political motive on my behalf? What parties have I represented? What have I done?”
Councilman Ed Camargo said a “midseason mayor pro tem change is not the normal practice.”  While the mayor, Camargo said, had “the liberty” to ask for and get a change in who gets to serve as the mayor pro tem, he said “It’s not the normal practice for me.”
Councilwoman Jeannette indicated her belief the mayor had the ability to designate his own mayor pro tem. On a vote of 3-to-2, with Reyes, Jeannette and Hernandez prevailing, Hernandez was installed as mayor pro tem, returning Evans to the status of councilwoman.
-Mark Gutglueck

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