Bennington Chosen As Brosowske’s Replacement

A month and 12 days after it removed Councilman Jeremiah Brosowske as the city’s Fourth District councilman and at the last public meeting prior to the elapsing of 60-day deadline for doing so, the Hesperia City Council filled that void by appointing Brigit Bennington to fill the post until the city’s next municipal election.
Bennington’s promotion to the council offsets her loss to Brosowske, which came during the 2018 election, four months after the council conferred on Brosowske an advantage in that election by appointing him in July 2018 to the vacancy on the council that ensued following the death of Hesperia Mayor Russ Blewett in May 2018. The appointment of Bennington puts a coda on what was an epic descent in which the then-27-year-old Brosowske was heartily embraced by the majority of City Hall’s leadership and in a relatively short course of events grew to become a persona non grata with the City of Progress’s political establishment. Simultaneously, however, Brosowske is moving ahead with legal action to contest his removal.
Brosowske, a political prodigy who was elected at 18 to serve as a member of the Associated Student Body Council and Senate at Victor Valley College and managed to achieve the posts of parliamentarian and ASB vice president, thereafter worked dutifully in the trenches on behalf dozens of local Republican candidates in the election cycles that followed. Brosowske so impressed former Chino Hills Mayor/former California Assemblyman/now Fourth District County Supervisor Curt Hagman with his youthful energy and enthusiasm for political campaigning that Hagman in 2014 hired the then-23-year-old Brosowske to serve as the executive director of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee when Hagman was that body’s chairman. Brosowske continued to make acquaintances among and then forge friendships and alliances with several of the region’s GOP officeholders.  Among those Brosowske assisted were Paul Russ, whose successful campaign for Hesperia City Council in 2014 led to him subsequently being elevated to mayor by his colleagues, and Rebekah Swanson in her successful 2016 bid for the Hesperia City Council. Though Brosowske failed in his own 2016 bid to get elected to the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee, he continued to be well-thought of in GOP circles, by which point he had entered into a close working relationship with Bill Postmus, who was a decade-and-a-half ago one of the most powerful political figures in the region when he was simultaneously the chairman of both the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee. Postmus would subsequently see his political career founder in scandal after he acceded to the position of county assessor, the highest ranking taxing authority in San Bernardino County, a position from which he had been able to induce business owners to provide political contributions to himself and Republican candidates and causes in exchange for his providing those businesses breaks on property and asset taxes.
Through a Wyoming-based company he had founded, Mountain States Consulting Group, LLC, Postmus remained highly involved in politics in San Bernardino County, particularly in the San Bernardino County desert region. Using Mountain States Consulting Group to take in money from various individuals, entities and companies who had an interest in San Bernardino County governmental decisions, Postmus then used the lax corporate reporting requirements that are applied to companies in Wyoming to pass that money through to local politicians in San Bernardino County and the High Desert in a way in which the actual original source of the money could not be identified when it reached the campaign coffers of the elected officials or candidates who received it. In this way, Postmus used Mountain States Consulting Group to traffic in political influence and the buying and selling of votes. He hired Brosowske as one of Mountain States Consulting Group’s political operatives. This killed three birds with one stone, allowing Brosowske to hold body and soul together, giving him the opportunity to engage in the time-and-energy-consuming efforts of instigating his foray into political office, and making it possible for Postmus to vicariously involve himself in San Bernardino politics through Brosowske, who in many ways replicated Postmus’s status as the boy wonder of San Bernardino County High Desert Republican politics who had been elected to the board of supervisors in 2000 at the age of 29.
A central element of Postmus’s political formula was conveying indirectly to business interests with deep pockets the understanding that the provision of money to politicians through him could achieve for them the results they were after in the governmental arena. Postmus mastered doing this in such a way that no overt statement was made but that it was clearly understood that the politician in question was amenable to supporting a donor’s project proposals or need for government action in exchange for monetary support in electioneering efforts.
Postmus and Mountain States Consulting Group immediately went to work in the aftermath of Mayor Blewett’s passing, lobbying through back channels to convince the Hesperia City Council that Brosowske should be brought in to fill the gap on the panel. In the cases of Russ and Swanson, no effort was needed to get them to accept Brosowske as Blewett’s logical successor, as both Postmus and Brosowske had previously established political relationships with them. Councilman Larry Bird, the sole member of the council advocating controlled growth and requiring builders of residential and commercial projects to provide a comprehensive range of infrastructure to service developments up front, was unwilling to support Brosowske, given his connection to the construction industry. The fourth member of the council, Bill Holland, who had acceded to being mayor following Blewett’s death, from the outset of his time on the council was highly accommodating of the building industry, and had been himself a recipient of campaign funds from Brosowske’s major backers. He at once agreed to support Brosowske’s appointment. Indeed, Holland played a crucial role in ensuring that the selection process in favor of Brosowske was rigged. Brosowske, along with Bennington, Victoria Dove, Russell Harris, Linda Holder, Robert Nelson, Anthony Rhoades, Veronica Rios and Chester Watts, applied for the council position appointment. On July 11, 2018 the city council held a specially-scheduled meeting to interview the candidates and thereupon make an appointment. All of the candidates participated in that forum except Watts, who was infirm and could not attend. The appointment candidates were excluded from the meeting chambers so they would not have an opportunity to hear the questions in advance of their own interviews. Holland, as the mayor, arranged to have Brosowske interviewed second last. Former Hesperia Mayor and Councilman Bill Jensen was a longtime Postmus associate and a close friend to Holland, for whom he had acted as the broker on the sale of one of his properties. Jensen was an early advocate for Brosowske’s appointment who in June 2018 had welcomed Brosowske as a roommate into his home at 8075 E Avenue so Brosowske could claim Hesperia residency there, register to vote at that address and thereby qualify to serve on the Hesperia City Council. After witnessing the interviews of the first four candidates on July 11, Jensen retreated to the foyer in City Hall, where Brosowske was waiting to be called in for his interview. He provided Brosowske with the questions being asked and an outline of the responses his rivals for the position had given thus far. With that advantage, Brosowske came in and gave a competent enough performance that appointing him would not appear unreasonable. The council voted 3-to-1, with Russ, Holland and Swanson prevailing and Councilman Larry Bird dissenting, to appoint Brosowske.
With the terms on the council that Russ, Holland and Blewett were elected to in 2014 drawing to a close, Russ and Holland were obliged to run for election and Brosowske was likewise obliged to stand for election in November 2018 for them to remain in office. With 2018 being the first year in the city’s 30-year history in which elections were held by-district rather than at-large, Holland sought the endorsement of the voters in the city’s newly created Second District, Russ vied in the Third District and Brosowske, having entered into a lease for a unit at 16784 Sultana Street in Hesperia within the Sultana Mulberry Apartment Complex in the city’s Fourth District, ran in that race. All three incumbents endorsed one another going into the election season.
For the entirety of his nearly eight years in office Holland had proven himself willing to reduce the infrastructure construction requirements imposed on those elements of the building industry developing property in Hesperia to make way for the City of Progress to, in his words, “move forward.”
Having already secured what he considered to be sufficient funding to fuel his campaign in 2018, Holland felt it would be to his benefit to show some distance between himself and the building industry as Hesperia’s infrastructure deficit which had been accruing for generations had manifested to become a severe negative impact on the quality of life in Hesperia, and his four opponents in the race were looking to make headway using that as a wedge to prevent his reelection. Somewhat abruptly, just as he was receiving final installments totaling $3,080.78 in funding originating with developmental interests that was laundered to him through the Inland Empire Taxpayers Association, Holland reversed course from what had been his pattern while in office and opposed using city funds to construct or pave roads intended to serve proposed residential projects in the city.  The Russ and Brosowske campaigns were the immediate beneficiaries of money from the development industry that was poured into independent expenditure committees, including those controlled by Postmus/Mountain States Consulting Group, which was used to generate and distribute fluff pieces lionizing them while encouraging voters to retain them on the council. Those same independent expenditure committees at the same time put out “political hit pieces” attacking both Holland and Bennington. Incensed at the rough play, Holland connected that the developmental interests bankrolling the attacks on him were supporting both Brosowske and Russ, at which point he publicly withdrew his support of both, and endorsed Bennington and Cameron Gregg, in their elective efforts against Brosowske and Russ.
On November 6, Holland emerged from the fray blooded but unbeaten, having managed to bring in 1,027 votes, which was good for 34.92 percent of the vote, well ahead of the second place finisher in Hesperia’s District 2, Dan Ramirez, who captured 22.92 percent of the vote. Russ, with 2,119 votes or 48.06 percent, was outdistanced by 28-year-old Cameron Gregg in District 3, who managed 2,288 votes for 51.96 percent. Five minutes after the polls closed on election night, with none of District 4’s 18 precincts having yet reported and only the mail-in ballots that had been received up to that point tallied, Bennington was out in front of Brosowske by a razor thin margin, 448 votes or 50.28 percent to 443 votes or 49.72 percent. At 10 p.m. that night, after 14 of the 18 precincts had reported, the voting was trending slightly in Bennington’s direction, and she remained ever so slightly ahead of Brosowske, 653 votes or 50.7 percent to 635 votes or 49.3 percent. There was no change at midnight. At 4 a.m. Wednesday morning, all precincts’ ballots were in and counted. The vote tally at that point stood 1,011 or 50.75 percent for Bennington to 981 or 49.25 percent for Brosowske.
Thereafter, however, the last minute blitz of highly negative attack mailers that had been put out by the Postmus/Mountain States team on Brosowske’s behalf and which had arrived in District 4 mailboxes just a few days ahead of election day had their full effect. At 4 p.m. on Friday November 9, with most of the mail-in ballots having arrived and some of the provisional ballots having been validated, Brosowske has moved to within two votes of Bennington, 1,115 votes or 49.96 percent to 1,117 votes or 50.04 percent. The following week, as more mail-in ballots arrived and were counted, Brosowske inched in front of her, and that trend continued all the way to the final official results were declared and certified in December, at which point Brosowske was declared the winner, with 1,688 votes or 52.08 percent to Bennington’s 1,553 votes, or 47.92 percent.
To Brosowske and his supporters, it seemed that he had succeeded in progressing to the next level with regard to fulfilling his ambition, which extended up the political evolutionary chain to perhaps include county supervisor and, more certainly, state and then federal office. His victory put him into an elected office that he would hold for four years, and which would provide him with the foundation to run as an incumbent for the Assembly, State Senate or Congress in 2020 or 2022. Neither Brosowske nor his supporters fully recognized the degree to which the ruthless tactics he had employed against Bennington, a 30 plus-year resident of Hesperia and former government employee whose participation in neighborhood-based improvement efforts as a non-politician had generally signaled to a large segment of the community her civic-mindedness and sincere nature, offended a major cross section of the community, a situation exacerbated by the consideration that Brosowske, as transplant to Hesperia, did not have his hand on the pulse of those he was actually representing. Virtually overnight, despite his victory, the perception of him as an earnest, young up-and-coming, clean cut conservative values officeholder well-thought of by his colleagues changed to that of a carpetbagger who was ready to maneuver in whatever direction necessary and use underhanded tactics to achieve his goals and ends, which were in no way consistent with the his constituents’ interests and priorities.
Brosowske did himself no favors when, anticipating the influx of future political donations from entrepreneurs in the nascent commercial cannabis industry,  he spoke openly about his support for allowing marijuana cultivation, processing, distribution and retail outlets as a means of boosting the regional economy. Such musings in Hesperia, which is dominated by conservative family and Christian values Republicans, including more than 10,000 members of both Baptist and Pentecostal congregations whose preachers exercise considerable influence of how those church members vote, did not sit well. The reserve of goodwill Brosowske once had went instantly up in smoke.  Accompanied by revelations of Brosowske’s connection to Postmus, who decades ago had similarly garnered the strong support of that deeply religiously-bent segment of the Hesperia population which then was critically disillusioned when it was revealed that he was a closeted homosexual whose lifestyle featured prodigious drug-fueled promiscuous hook-ups with different men on an almost nightly basis, the disenchantment with Brosowske metastasized.
In March, developmental interests, including Jim Previti, one of the developers most heavily involved in residential expansion in Hesperia over the last decade-and-a-half, initiated a recall effort against Holland, whom Previti had previously supported, in an effort to punish him for having reversed himself with regard to his previous support of having the city pay for infrastructure, including roads, needed for the conversion of undeveloped property into subdivisions. Holland’s first eight years as an officeholder had been built upon his previous willingness to do the bidding of the development industry. His refusal to go along with having Hesperia’s taxpayers continue to pay the freight on the cost of the public improvements accompanying that development had evolved out of his need to appeal to those taxpayers to achieve reelection in the recently concluded election. Once the development industry has its tentacles into a politician, he is finished if he thereafter seeks to act in an independent way that renunciates the interests of those who have backed him. Given Previti’s status as one of Mountain State’s and Brosowske’s major contributors and Brosowske’s status as one of Mountain State’s primary political operatives, it was widely presumed that he was involved in the Holland recall effort. When that accusation was first publicly raised, Brosowske issued a denial. Subsequently, however, as the contretemps between him and Holland deepened, Brosowske publicly threatened to find and back a candidate who would vie to replace Holland once the recall question against Holland qualified for the ballot.
Thereafter, talk of recalling Brosowske ensued. Unbeknownst to Brosowske, his lack of presence at the Sultana Street Apartment had been noted, and a determined effort to further research whether he was in fact residing in Hesperia was undertaken, with any eye to the consideration that he might be removed from office for non-residency. Monitoring his comings and goings, however, proved to be something of a challenge, as his work as a political operative did not necessitate that he function from a fixed address.
In May, Brosowske, who had no training, no licensing, no certification, no expertise and no experience with regard to water operations, was hired into the position of assistant general manager with the West Valley Water District in Rialto at an annual salary of $189,592 augmented by $62,500 in benefits and perquisites, swelling his total compensation package to over a quarter of a million dollars per year. It was simultaneously revealed that Previti was a major donor to the campaigns of Kyle Crowther, a member of the board of directors of the West Valley Water District.
Brosowske’s hiring by West Valley was perceived, both in Hesperia and in San Bernardino County’s political and governmental circles, as an egregious act of blatant cronyism. While the increase in income the job provided and the prestige of the position was of obvious benefit to Brosowske personally, his regular presence at the district’s headquarters made it far easier to track his movements, which ultimately redounded to his political detriment. Those tailing Brosowske reported that he was actually residing in Rancho Cucamonga, driving to work in the morning from a specific location there to the West Valley Water District headquarters and eventually returning to Rancho Cucamonga in the evening.
Hesperia Recreation and Park District Board Member Kelly Gregg, the father of Cameron Gregg and Hesperia School District Board Member Cody Greg, is the head of operations of True Liberty Protection Services. True Liberty’s personnel carried out a concerted around-the-clock monitoring of Brosowske’s apartment at 16784 Sultana Street. According to Kelly Gregg, Brosowske was a virtual no-show at his Hesperia apartment, making appearances there only on rare occasions. According to Kelly Gregg, Brosowske has claimed or established residences in Apple Valley, Brea and Hesperia.
In addition, the Sentinel has learned, the Hesperia City Council was provided with information, quite possibly provided to it by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, which has given its members absolute confidence that Brosowske has been regularly residing at a location outside the city. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department has the capability of collecting cell tower data relating to specific mobile devices, which allow it to compile a profile of the user of that phone’s precise whereabouts on a daily, indeed hourly and minute-by-minute, basis. It is believed that the department was able to assemble such a comprehensive tracing of Brosowske’s whereabouts going back to the time he was first appointed to the council. Because cellular signal emissions propagate over the airwaves rather than across a wire, no warrant is required in capturing them. Hesperia City Manager Nils Bentsen, prior to his hiring as city manager, was employed for 27 years by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, where he achieved the rank of captain and his final assignment was overseeing the Hesperia Sheriff’s Department Station, in which capacity he was serving as Hesperia’s chief of police. Hesperia contracts with the sheriff’s department for the provision of law enforcement service.
On September 3, the city council, with Brosowske and Councilwoman Rebekah Swanson dissenting, voted 3-to-2 to have Bentsen and City Attorney Eric Dunn provide the council with a list of both lawyers and investigators the council could contract with at a future date to carry out a probe into whether Brosowske was residing in Hesperia. Immediately thereafter and without having hired such an investigator nor having received or reviewed the report of just such an investigation, the council voted, again by the same 3-to-2 margin with Mayor Larry Bird and councilmen Bill Holland and Cameron Gregg prevailing, to remove Brosowske from office based on his presumed non-residence. Prior to that meeting, Brosowske’s Corona-based attorney, Chad Morgan, had submitted to the city 211 pages of documentation supporting Brosowske’s claim of residency. Included in that documentation was Brosowske’s eight page rental contract for Unit 7 at 16784 Sultana Street in Hesperia, signed by Brosowske on August 31, 2018 and L. Christensen, representing Sultana Mulberry Apartments LLC; electricity bills from Southern California Edison in Brosowske’s name for “16784 Sultana St. Apt 7 Hesperia, CA 92345” for 12 months from September 2018 until August 2019; similar bills from Southwest Gas to Jeremiah Brosowske for residential gas service to a service address at “16784 Sultana St #7” in Hesperia for the same timeframe; a bill from Spectrum for internet service in Brosowske’s name at the 16784 Sultana Street Unit 7 address for August 2019; and a color photocopy of Brosowske’s driver license, which gives his address as “16784 Sultana St 7 Hesperia, CA 92345.”
While the rental agreement and the bills established that Brosowske had made arrangements to live at the 16784 Sultana Street Unit 7 address, the evidence consisting of the utility bills was undercut by the consideration that the service address on the bills does not match the billing address, which is 16036 Tude Rd. in Apple Valley, corresponding to the home of Brosowske’s mother and father.
Also included in the compendium Morgan presented were a series of text messages that passed between Brosowske’s cell phone and that of Bill Jensen, including ones on June 12, 2018 and on June 28, 2018. Those on the former date show that Brosowske was earnestly seeking a place to live in Hesperia. Those text messages on the latter date seem to indicate that Brosowske was at that point living at Jensen’s Hesperia premises, with Jensen referring to Brosowske as his “roommate.”
According to Morgan, “as a matter of law” Brosowske qualifies as a Hesperia resident and Hesperia Fourth District resident based upon his intent to set up a domicile in Hesperia, and his residency is confirmed by his action in actually moving into the city and setting up his living quarters there.
There have been numerous challenges over the years of the right of various officeholders in California to hold their elected positions based upon their alleged lack of residency within the jurisdiction each was elected to serve within. Under California procedure, a so-called quo warranto examination is carried out by the California Attorney General’s Office, which hears the case against the officeholder in question as presented by a challenger counterbalanced by the officeholder’s defense or explanation, including the presentation of evidence. The attorney general’s office thereupon makes a determination either that the challenge lacks validity or that sufficient question about the validity of the officeholder’s residency exists for the matter to be taken up in a court of law. The court then makes a determination upon the hearing of evidence and arguments put forth by both sides in the dispute. In most cases, the issue at stake consists of the elected official’s continuation in office. In relatively rare cases, questions about an officeholders actual residence have led to a criminal prosecution of the officeholder based on fraud, perjury or election code violations. The outcome of those challenges and prosecutions have been varied, with some individuals being removed from office or convicted, and others allowed to retain their position or being vindicated.
The most celebrated case relating to the residency of a San Bernardino County elected official was that of Fontana City Treasurer Ron Hibble, who was elected to that post in November 1986. The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, then headed by District Attorney Dennis Kottmeier, charged Hibble with four felony charges of perjury and election fraud base upon the contention that he lied about his city of residence. At trial before Judge Robert Krug, Deputy District Attorney Karen Ferraro established that Hibble regularly spent the night at the Grand Terrace home of his girlfriend, Judith McBride, that he had rented out his Fontana residence to a tenant and that he had prevaricated about living in the garage of that home.
Judge Krug made several rulings in the case that were crucial to the outcome, one of those being that the case boiled down to not where Hibble lived on a constant day-to-day basis but whether he met the State of California’s criteria relating to what constitutes an individual’s legal domicile, and whether Hibble had met that bar when he ran for office and voted in 1986.  Making a finding that the utilities at the Fontana home were in Hibble’s name and that his driver license showed the Fontana home’s address, Krug ruled there was no evidence that Hibble’s intent was to move to Grand Terrace permanently, and that Hibble was not paying rent to McBride. Hibble was acquitted.
With the November 2 deadline for the council to act with regard to the council vacancy, the council had scheduled the discussion of the issue and naming a possible replacement for Tuesday night, October 15.
During the public hearing prior to the council’s vote, some residents recommended that Bennington be selected to replace Brosowske.
Victorville City Councilwoman Blanca Gomez characterized Brosowke’s ouster as an “illegal power move” by Holland, Bird and Gregg, seeking to remind them that Brosowske had been elected by Hesperia’s voters.
In their discussion, the mayor and councilmen Gregg and Holland indicated their belief that adequate consideration of the facts relating to Brosowske’s residency or lack thereof had been given to justify his removal.
“This goes back to what we talked about with this person’s residency,” Mayor Bird said. “We said numerous times, ‘Show that you live in the City of Hesperia.’ That did not happen. There were plenty of ways to do it. There was no rush to judgment,” Bird insisted, and then repeated, “No rush to judgment. The election was almost a year ago. We’ve given way more time than we should have to it.”
While Bird was generally and in some specific areas at one with and supportive of Holland, contrasting Holland’s undisputed and longtime status as a city resident with Brosowske’s questionable presence in the city and dubitable claim to being a citizen qualified to vote in the City of Progress and hold office, the mayor nonetheless made an oblique reference to the fashion in which Holland, while he was mayor in July 2018, had held the door open for Brosowske to allow him to make an entrance into Hesperia’s boardroom which the council majority now considers to have been illegitimate.
“We had a process when, sadly, our mayor, Russ Blewett, passed away,” Bird said. “We had maybe eight or nine candidates who did apply. One of those was accused and never responded – and that was the person who was appointed  – that they [sic] were given the questions out in the lobby by a person that’s in this room.”
Holland offered a limited and somewhat self-serving mea culpa, without acknowledging that he had actually militated to tilt the playing field in Brosowske’s favor last year.
“When you misrepresent yourself and you misrepresent where you’re at, where you live, and what you are about, sometimes people are fooled by the flash,” Holland said. “I can say openly… I made a mistake the night I voted to appoint Jeremiah to the council because I, too, was fooled by the flash. I don’t believe he lived in Hesperia.”
Gregg called Brosowske’s electoral victory last November an “unconstitutional election. It’s with that that I’d like to make a motion to appoint Brigit, based on she was the second highest vote-getter. There were no other candidates in that election at all.”
Councilwoman Rebekah Swanson said, “I don’t have any problem at all with Mrs. Benington. That is not my hesitation. My concern is that there was no attempt by the city or anyone else to show that position was open and people were asked to put their name in. So, we didn’t tell anybody. I don’t think there are any other people from District 4 who have applied for this appointment.”
Swanson said it was possible that “Somebody would come back and say, ‘You did not give everybody the opportunity [to apply].’ I just ask that maybe we put it on the website, maybe put it in the newspaper, so everyone would have an opportunity, so nobody could say that Mrs. Bennington jumped over anybody to get this position. It’s the process and the transparency that makes me uncomfortable.”
The council then voted on Gregg’s motion, which passed 3-to-0, with Swanson abstaining.
Bennington thereafter was sworn in.
After the meeting, Brosowske told the Sentinel he fully intends to move forward with the legal challenge of his removal.
He also responded to suggestions that he had engaged in a smear campaign against Bennington. “I ran a campaign,” he said, asserting that Bennington had utilized underhanded tactics against him as well. “She had surrogates attacking me,” he said. “Not coincidentally, all three of those who appointed her supported her failed candidacy last year. Larry Bird, Bill Holland and Cameron Gregg all endorsed her candidacy for city council last year. They never accepted her defeat. Now they are engaged in legally questionable maneuvers to unseat a duly elected public official and replace him with a rejected candidate. This is common in banana republics, not California.”
-Mark Gutglueck

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