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By Mark Gutglueck
Former Upland Police Chief Martin Thouvenell engaged in orchestrating the attempted firing of Upland’s current police chief, Darren Goodman, after Goodman proved unamenable to a power sharing arrangement suspending normal municipal protocol that would have made Thouvenell the de facto commander of the police department, information surfacing in the wake of Goodman’s suspension has revealed.
Thouvenell had lain in wait for Goodman for more than 20 months, at which point a Trojan horse whom Thouvenell had planted in the police chief’s office recently unleashed a key element of the plan to effectuate Goodman’s removal as chief, information provided to the city council this week indicates.
While the stratagem, once fully hatched by Thouvenell earlier this month, failed to fully persuade three of the city council’s members that there were adequate grounds to terminate Goodman, Mayor Debbie Stone was convinced by Thouvenell that she could use her authority to unilaterally direct City Manager Rosemary Hoerning to suspend Goodman. On Monday, Stone and Hoerning did so.
The power alliance binding Stone with Thouvenell is a curious one. Thouvenell was Upland’s police chief from 1994 until 2005, during which time he had been called upon to briefly serve in the capacities of acting city manager and acting fire chief when those top tier administrative posts had been vacated. In 2011, he sought political empowerment in the city as well. That year, a special election to fill a void on the city council was held after the resignation and indictment of then-Mayor John Pomierski resulted in then-Councilman Ray Musser leaving his council post to move into the mayoralty, to which his council colleagues had appointed him. Eleven candidates vied for the open position that Musser had resigned from. Those eleven included Stone and Thouvenell. Stone, who was backed by the city’s firefighters union, whose members were willing to walk precincts on her behalf, captured first place in the race with 3,589, or 34.92 percent of the 10,278 votes cast. Thouvenell, who was backed by the city’s police officers’ union, whose members were generous with political donations but reluctant to go door-to-door to advocate on behalf of the former police chief, ran in second place with 2,897 votes or 28.19 percent. Nearly five years later, in the summer of 2016 when a bare-3-to-2 majority of the city council resolved to terminate then-City Manager Rod Butler, Stone went along with the council majority to bring in Thouvenell to serve as acting or interim city manager. Thouvenell was originally supposed to remain in that capacity for only a brief interlude while a full-fledged city manager was being recruited, but as it turned out, he remained in that post for 18 months, a duration in place that was actually longer than the tenures of the two city managers who served before him and the two who served after him.
Thouvenell was thus city manager during what turned out to be Stone’s successful campaign for mayor in 2016 and beyond that. Indeed, Thouvenell would remain in the role of city manager throughout all of 2017, leaving that position only when Bill Manis took on the role of city manager on January 2, 2018. Thouvenell’s managerial authority did not end at that point, however, as the council which Stone then headed as mayor had conferred upon Thouvenell a one-year duration contract as a management consultant that was to go into effect upon Manis becoming city manager.
Indeed, very early in Thouvenell’s tenure as acting city manager in 2016, prior to Stone being elected mayor, it was apparent to all that the two had buried the political hatchet from 2011, and that Thouvenell was exercising a Svengali-like hold on Stone. After she became mayor, Stone grew absolutely dependent on Thouvenell not only for guidance with regard to how she was to comport herself in her mayoral duties, but in how the city was to be run.
There were a bevy of challenges facing Upland at that juncture, the foremost of which were financial ones, as the city was still struggling to generate sufficient revenue to cover the cost of providing the standard range of municipal services and meet its ballooning pension debt obligations, a legacy of generous commitments that former Mayor Pomierski had made in the past to the city’s municipal employees in employment contract negotiations. These were coupled with managerial issues, as the city was experiencing a continual drain of its department heads. One such issue that came to a crisis point during Stone’s second year as mayor was that relating to its police chief, one-time Los Angeles Police Captain Brian Johnson, who had been hired in 2015, at which time he was hailed as someone who would improve what was widely considered to be an incestuous culture in the Upland Police Department, which had been promoting from within to fill its police chief position for decades. After two years in the position, however, Johnson was finding it impossible to bend the department’s personnel to his will, and he was faced with a near mutiny in May 2017. That convulsion came about when Johnson suspended Sergeant Marc Simpson, who was the president of the Upland Police Management Association, and Captain Anthony Yoakum, then the department’s second-highest ranking officer, after Simpson and Yoakum moved to back Detective Lon Teague when Johnson called Teague on the carpet for having sought to redress concerns he and other officers had with regard to department policy. Teague had done so by going outside the confines of the department’s senior staff. A 21-year department veteran and then the Upland Police Officers Association president, Teague approached staff at City Hall, including the city’s human resources director, with those concerns rather than seeking to have the matter discussed up the immediate department chain of command, which ultimately would have meant it would reach Johnson. As the issue Teague was seeking to address had originated with Johnson, Teague calculated that approach would have little chance of succeeding.
In October 2017, after the Upland Police Officers Association called for a referendum on the police chief’s performance and competence, 78 percent of the association indicated they had “no confidence” in Johnson. Ten percent voted that they yet had “confidence” in Johnson’s leadership of the department. The balance, some 12 percent, rendered a verdict of “undecided.” Johnson tendered his resignation as of October 30, 2017.
Thouvenell, as city manager, headed the effort to find Johnson’s replacement, convincing 70-year-old Douglas Millmore to take the temporary chief’s assignment in Upland while the search was ongoing. Millmore, as a captain with the Upland Police Department, had served as second-in-command during Thouvenell’s first year as chief. In 1995, Millmore had departed Upland to become police chief in Murrieta, where he concluded his career in law enforcement at the age of 50 in 1998. The recruitment effort lasted several months, into Manis’s tenure as city manager. Thouvenell, as the city’s managerial consultant, continued to head that search effort, which in June 2018 ended with the decision to hire Goodman, who at that point had been with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department for 27 years, most recently in the capacity of the captain overseeing the Chino Hills station.
Goodman moved into the police chief’s position with Upland, effective July 16, 2018, the first African-American to achieve the rank of police chief in Upland, and one of only a handful of African-American officers to have ever served with the department. Goodman qualifies as the most highly educated police chief in Upland’s 114-year history. In addition to holding a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Southern California, Goodman has also attained a doctorate at USC’s Rossier School of Education. In addition, he had graduated from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in 2015, where he studied local and state government executive management.
Despite Thouvenell’s recognition that Goodman had both extensive operational experience in an executive capacity as well as a level of education and training that fully familiarized him with the standard protocol of local governmental operations, he pressed Goodman to accept the suspension of the standard arrangement of administrative lines of authority at City Hall in which the city council functions in the capacity of the city’s elected leadership that sets policy and delegates the authority to execute that policy to the city manager, who is responsible then for directing the city’s various department heads to implement that policy. In a California general law city such as Upland, the authority of the mayor and city council members extends solely from their capacity to act as collective body, and no single member of the city council, including the mayor, is empowered to dictate policy unilaterally and without a consensus vote of his or her council colleagues.
Thouvenell, however, was intent on establishing Stone as an executive mayor, having her assume what was essentially dictatorial power she did not possess, expanding her political status to that of an administrator, making her a co-regent of the city, equal to or in some respects preempting the city manager. Stone would then defer to him, Thouvenell knew, for direction on how she should use the sway she possessed. As Stone’s vicar, Thouvenell in this way was seeking to extend his own authority, expropriating the power of the city manager for himself, as well.
According to Stephen Larson, a former federal judge who is representing Goodman, “Bill Manis was the city manager at the time that Chief Goodman became chief of police. Almost immediately, however, Marty Thouvenell directed Chief Goodman not to communicate with Manis and to report only to Thouvenell and Jeannette Vagnozzi, who was deputy city manager at the time. Thouvenell directed Chief Goodman to break the chain of command and call Mayor Stone every day to keep her informed as to what happened in the city and in the department. To be clear, the chief’s job is to report to the city manager and keep him/her informed. Chief Goodman maintained the chain of command, rather than report behind the city manager’s back.”
Simultaneous with his efforts to cut Manis out of the line of authority and communication between the mayor and the police department, Thouvenell further overstepped his authority as the city’s managerial consultant to himself encroach on Goodman’s function as the head of the police department, according to Larson.
“Thouvenell would consistently come into the Upland Police Department using a key card that he was not authorized to have and had no reason to possess,” according to Larson. “Thouvenell would then interfere with the various officers’ and staffs’ daily tasks and assignments, asking them for information about police department activities. Thouvenell even went so far as to call police department personnel directly and request or order them to send patrol units to various locations, including to remove campaign signs. Upon learning about this interference with the police department’s operations, Chief Goodman requested that Thouvenell refrain from acting as if he was still the chief of police. Chief Goodman then took possession of Thouvenell’s keycard.”
According to Larson, Thouvenell tried to usurp Goodman’s management of the department by inserting himself into the personnel decisions that are normally the exclusive province of the police chief, who exercises autonomy with regard to hirings, discipline of employees and firings.
“Thouvenell also attempted to interfere with personnel decisions within the department,” Larson maintains. “For example, he directed Chief Goodman not to promote Lieutenant Cliff Matthews because he was ‘lazy’ and ‘worthless.’”
Larson said Thouvenell’s estimation of Matthews clashed with the police chief’s observations of Matthews’ performance and “Chief Goodman refused to be swayed by this attempted interference; instead, he promoted Matthews to captain, finding him to be intelligent, professional, and someone who consistently went beyond what was required.”
At this point, as a consequence of Goodman’s suspension, Matthews is running the department as the interim police chief.
From shortly after her election as mayor in 2016 and over the next two years, Stone headed a solid ruling coalition on the city council that consisted of herself; Councilman Gino Filippi, who was first elected in 2010 and reelected to the council in 2014; Carol Timm, a longtime member of the city’s planning commission who had been elected to the city council in 2014; and Sid Robinson, who narrowly lost in his bid for the city council in 2016 against Janice Elliott and was then appointed to the council to complete the two years remaining on the council term to which Stone had been reelected in 2014 after she was obliged to resign that position to assume the mayoralty upon her 2016 victory. With Thouvenell in place as acting city manager at the close of 2016 and throughout 2017, the four-to-one voting block on the city council consisting of Stone, Filippi, Timm and Robinson consistently politically outmuscled Elliott, who represented the lone dissident on the panel. The Stone/Thouvenell team dominated Upland for two years, having its way on virtually every substantive as well as the routine matters that were the purview of City Hall.
The already drawn-out process of settling on a permanent replacement for Butler as city manager continued to languish throughout 2017, at least partially by design as Thouvenell quarterbacked the city’s move to shutter its then 111-year old municipal fire department and transfer responsibility for the provision of fire-prevention, fire-safety, firefighting and emergency medical response to the County of San Bernardino’s fire department. That takeover proved less than popular with a significant cross section of the city’s residents, but the council majority and the San Benardino County Local Formation Commission fashioned a process to have the city’s voters “approve” the move by utilizing a “protest vote” to have the city’s residents sign off on the change. The city’s voters and landowners were invited to lodge a protest against the county’s appropriation of the Upland Fire Department. Those who sent in such a letter were registered as a vote against the takeover. All those who did not send a letter were deemed to have voted in support of the city’s annexation into the county’s fire protection district. In this way, a majority of the city’s residents were consigned to accepting the municipal fire department closure without even knowing it was occurring. Only Elliott among the members of the council opposed the plan, which garnered her the enmity of her colleagues and especially Stone and Thouvenell. Together, in May 2017, just five months into Elliott’s tenure as councilwoman, Thouvenell orchestrated a vote of censure by the council against Elliott.
The closure of Upland’s municipal fire department, a move in large measure formulated by Thouvenell and done with Stone’s support, illustrated the degree to which Stone had reoriented herself politically and into a power-sharing alliance with Thouvenell. The firefighters union which had backed Stone in her original 2011 run for the council was opposed to the shuttering of the fire department and the county takeover. Yet Stone, at that point highly dependent upon Thouvenell’s guidance, was willing to break with what had been her political base in going along with the game plan Thouvenell was intent upon executing.
In the fall of 2017, more than a year had elapsed since the search for a city manager replacement had begun in earnest. Among those aspiring to the post all along had been Jeannette Vagnozzi, who in August of 2015 had been persuaded by Butler to leave the position she held as the assistant to the city manager of La Verne to come to Upland and serve in the capacities of assistant city manager, city clerk, administrative services director, human resources director and risk manager. Thouvenell, however, felt Vagnozzi, if empowered as city manager, might prove unwilling to defer to the direction he had in mind, and he continued the search.
In December 2017, Thouvenell at last made a recommendation that the city hire Manis, then the city manager in Rosemead, to move into the city manager’s position. Thouvenell was satisfied that Manis’s experience, which included a stint as deputy city manager in San Bernardino where he had overseen the economic development, community development, public works and housing departments, time in the City of Banning as the economic development and redevelopment director, and his tenure as the economic development director in the City of Cypress prior to his work in Banning, together with previous municipal experience with the cities of Corona, Santa Ana, and Cerritos provided him with the adequate background and expertise to serve as Upland city manager.
Unstated was that Thouvenell figured that the 57-year old Manis, who at that point had 30 years invested in being a public employee and 30 years in the public employees retirement system, would be content to serve three more years as a caretaker city manager in Upland at an annual salary before benefits beginning at $238,000 per year, which would boost the annual pension he would be eligible to receive at age 60 to $196,350 per year. By accepting his role as a caretaker manager, Manis would essentially surrender his authority to Thouvenell, who would remain as Upland’s shot caller.
Once in place, Manis acted as the city’s official top administrator, though in reality, Thouvenell yet remained in charge. Virtually all of the major decisions that took place while Manis was city manager were ones in which he had only limited input, such as the city’s move to sell 3.631 acres of Memorial Park to San Antonio Hospital for use as a parking lot, arranging a trade of the entirety of Cabrillo Park to Lewis Homes in exchange for property in a gravel quarry near the 210 Freeway and the hiring of Goodwin as police chief. Placated by the prospect of seeing his annual pension zoom to near $200,000 per year, Manis acquiesced in Thouvenell maintaining control over the city, at least initially. But as city residents registered increasingly strident protests over the city’s surrendering of parkland and Thouvenell’s treatment of Goodman drove home that Thouvenells megalomaniacal designs on the city included not just serving as the city’s shadow city manager but its shadow police chief and shadow community development director as well, Manis began to rethink the wisdom of allowing Thouvenell and Stone, who had no formal training or experience in municipal management, commit the city to courses of action that might rebound to its detriment and to that of the city’s residents and taxpayers, while the responsibility for those decisions was being ascribed to him, potentially tarnishing whatever reputation and legacy he had. Late that summer, the 2018 Annual Conference & Expo of the League of California Cities was held in Long Beach, spanning three days from September 12 to September 14. Manis, who was there ostensibly in his capacity as Upland city manager to take in as many of the seminars and expositions on current municipal governance issues, new legislation and what are considered “best practices” in running a city as time and the crush and conflict of the schedule would permit, visited those booths where recruitment for other municipal positions throughout the state was ongoing, and he picked up applications for some of those positions. A few weeks later, with the 2018 election approaching, it was announced that he was departing as city manager, officially as of November 2. In fact, by the end of September Manis departed Upland City Hall, never to return. Put into his place as acting city manager was Vagnozzi, conditional upon her recognition that she was to consult with Thouvenell before taking action on anything.
In the November 2018 election, the first in the city’s then-112-year history to feature by-district elections, Elliott, despite having two years remaining on her at-large term to which she had been elected in 2016, vied for election to represent District Two covering that fourth of the city to the northeast, wherein she resided. She was victorious. Robinson, Timm and Filippi, who had provided three of the four votes needed to perpetuate the Thouvenell/Stone program, did not fare as well. Robinson, sensing the voters’ growing hostility, opted against seeking reelection. Filippi, in southwest-lying District Three, was defeated, as was Timm in the city’s southeastern electoral ward, District Four. Stone, who was not up for election in 2018, remained in office. But her hold on the city, as was Thouvenell’s, had been significantly attenuated with the election of Ricky Felix in Filippi’s stead and Rudy Zuniga over Timm.
Less than a month after the election, in what would come to be seen as a desperate ploy by Thouvenell and Stone to structure some form of continuing leverage over city operations, Thouvenell induced the lame duck members of the council – Timm, Filippi and Robinson – to join with Stone to approve the hiring of Vagnozzi as city manager on a three-year contract. That action was taken at the council’s November 26, 2018 meeting, the last opportunity for Timm, Robinson and Filippi to act in their official capacities in elected office.
Elliott voted against the eleventh hour hiring of Vagnozzi, and sought to convince her colleagues that saddling their successors with Vagnozzi without knowing whether the new members of the council would be favorably disposed to her was shortsighted and vindictive.
Behind the scenes, Thouvenell and Stone were seeking to line up support for Vagnozzi, hopeful that she would remain grateful for them helping her achieve the city manager’s post she had long coveted, and would evince loyalty to them down the road.
According to Larson, “Thouvenell directed Chief Goodman to publicly vocalize support for Vagnozzi as acting city manager solely because Mayor Stone liked Vagnozzi. In other words, if Chief Goodman wanted to remain on the mayor’s good side, he needed to publicly support her friends in city positions. Chief Goodman refused to voice support simply because it would please the mayor. In short, Thouvenell has repeatedly sought to pressure Chief Goodman into supporting the political agenda of Thouvenell and his allies, including Mayor Stone, and to do Thouvenell’s bidding rather than independently serving the city as chief of police. To his credit, Chief Goodman has consistently resisted this pressure, as he was and is adamant that he remain uninfluenced by city politics and instead continue to operate independently from the well-known Thouvenell crew. This independence is critical to Chief Goodman’s ability to adhere to his oath to serve all citizens of the City of Upland. Unfortunately, true to both Thouvenell’s and Vagnozzi’s warnings, because of Chief Goodman’s unwillingness to play Thouvenell’s political games and simply be a figurehead, he has not ‘won favor,’ and instead a campaign to undermine him has been launched.”
Thouvenell’s and Stone’s plan to maintain a degree of control over City Hall by having Vagnozzi installed as city manager was dashed in May 2019, slightly less than six months into her tenure as city manager. At that point, Elliott, Zuniga, Felix and the council’s newest member, Bill Velto, who had been appointed to assume the at-large council position Elliott had resigned from to take on representation of the city’s District Two, formed a consensus that Vagnozzi had to go. This development created a circumstance wherein the municipal areas into which Thouvenell yet had reach were diminishing. There were still vestiges of Thouvenell’s presence and clout within city operations. The most significant of these was that municipal department from which he had arisen to such prominence in the city originally, and within which he still had contact and some degree of influence. In a power play that took more than a year to fully effectuate, he was yet able to place a shot that would shake the city and demonstrate he is yet a force in Upland to be reckoned with.
According to Larson, Thouvenell and Stone manipulated a circumstance within the police department that had been in part set in place by Thouvenell to bring about Goodman’s current suspension and what Thouvenell and Stone hope will be seen by the remainder of the council as adequate grounds to cashier Goodman. Present within Goodman’s office was a police department civilian employee whose loyalty to Thouvenell had been formerly tapped into by both Stone and Thouvenell to monitor the police department. That employee now is the prime mover in the scheme to remove Goodman from the department, Larson maintains.
“This retaliatory campaign has now come to a head with the city’s response to the recent complaint submitted by Executive Assistant Luz Barrett,” Larson wrote in a letter to the city council dated June 24. “Barrett began working for the police department when Thouvenell was chief of police. It is well-known that Barrett maintains a close relationship with Thouvenell – or, the ‘Godfather,’ as she calls him – and provides information to him about what is going on within the department. Shortly after his arrival to the department, Chief Goodman promoted Barrett to executive assistant at the insistence of certain colleagues who felt that the length of her time with the department warranted her promotion. Barrett’s probationary period expires in July 2020. After working closely with Barrett, however, Chief Goodman quickly realized that Barrett lacked necessary skills to fulfill the role. As a result, Chief Goodman took it upon himself to encourage better performance and provide constructive criticism because that is the role of a manager. Recognizing that Barrett was not improving, Chief Goodman began working with the human resources department in March 2020 to return Barrett to her former classification upon the termination of her probationary period. Barrett’s performance issues are well documented. The day before Chief Goodman was to inform Barrett about her return to her former classification, Barrett went out, unexpectedly, on leave. Chief Goodman believes that Barrett overheard his conversation with the human resources representative about the final plans to implement the demotion and may have gone through papers for her demotion that were left out on his desk – the papers had been shuffled through even though the chief locked his office, and Barrett has the only other key. Two weeks later, Barrett submitted a draft civil complaint to the city, threatening to file it in state court. This draft complaint includes a litany of false accusations of misconduct against Chief Goodman.”
Larson’s letter states, “To be clear, not one allegation would hold any water in a fair and impartial investigation, let alone warrant a finding that Chief Goodman has subjected Barrett to a hostile work environment under the law. Given the city’s swift conduct against Chief Goodman after his initial interview, in which he was ambushed with different and new information not previously provided to him, and given that a second interview has not been scheduled, as required under the Government Code, only one conclusion can be drawn – the city’s goal is not to vet the truth of the allegations, but create a narrative that allows it to terminate Chief Goodman. This conclusion is further supported by the fact that the city is apparently ignoring that Ms. Barrett’s credibility has been undermined in ongoing litigation between the city and other police officers for wrongful discharge.”
Larson thereupon dealt directly with the accusation of misappropriation of department assets that forms the basis of Goodman’s current suspension and which Thouvenell and Stone are hopeful will convince the city council it has grounds to terminate the police chief.
“Apart from the baseless allegations of harassment, there is a lone allegation that Chief Goodman sent Barrett on a personal errand on department time,” Larson’s letter states. “It is important to note that since Barrett worked as the chief’s executive assistant, Chief Goodman recognized the benefit in developing a friendly relationship with Barrett. A friendly relationship assists in ensuring that constructive criticism is interpreted as just that, and it is important that the chief of police develops trust with his executive assistant for obvious reasons. To that end, Chief Goodman and his family assisted Barrett with certain personal matters on numerous occasions, including giving her money to help her when she was surprised with unexpected expenses. We will not disclose all these instances here. This friendly relationship appeared to be reciprocal. On one occasion, Barrett even offered to assist the chief in translating what Chief Goodman was trying to convey to his Spanish-speaking housekeeper. Barrett told the chief that she would be willing to help out and translate whenever he needed it. Seeing this as friendly and generous offer, Chief Goodman did in fact ask Barrett to translate a number of times over the phone. Barrett’s conversations with Chief Goodman’s housekeeper occurred sparingly over only four months of Barrett’s and Chief Goodman’s working relationship. To avoid any perception of impropriety or a violation of department policy, Chief Goodman compensated Barrett via Zelle payments for her telephonic translations.”
Zelle is a digital payment network owned and operated jointly by Bank of America, BB&T, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase, PNC Bank, US Bank and Wells Fargo. It enables bank customers to electronically transfer money from their bank account to another registered user’s bank account using a mobile device or the website of a participating banking institution.
“At no time did Chief Goodman indicate that Barrett was required to translate as a condition of her employment,” according to Larson. “Barrett’s complaint submitted to the city, however, alleges that Barrett was required to travel to San Diego on department time to translate with the housekeeper in person. The date identified in the complaint was a Sunday. Chief Goodman does recall a Sunday in which he asked Barrett to meet him down in San Diego to meet with the housekeeper and translate for him. As a thank you, Chief Goodman provided her a week-stay at his vacation home free of charge.”
That arrangement, Larson said, obviates the contention that Goodman allowed the city to pay for the translation service that Barrett provided him and his family. Further, Larson stated, the suggestion in Barrett’s complaint that the police chief evinced guilt by seeking to keep her translation work for him a secret misrepresents the circumstance.
“Chief Goodman asked Barrett not to tell anyone at the department about this because he did not want others to know that he was allowing anyone to use his vacation home free of charge; Chief Goodman does not even let family members stay free of charge,” Larson asserted. “He also wanted to protect Barrett from coworkers becoming jealous.”
Goodman had withstood investigators’ efforts to trip him up by making a factual misrepresentation to him, when he recognized at once the misrepresentation and corrected his interrogators, Larson maintained.
“During his interview, Chief Goodman was provided an incomplete text chain, without a date, and was told that the date of the alleged incident was different than the date alleged in the complaint,” Larson told the city council in the June 24 letter. “Being surprised with and questioned about this information violated Chief Goodman’s rights. Chief Goodman nonetheless insisted that the day that Barrett went down to San Diego was a Sunday, which he based on his review of his wife’s notes regarding the vacation home, and that he did not recall ever asking her to go down during the week to help translate a conversation with his housekeeper. Regardless, Chief Goodman would not have had Barrett go down on department time. And, assuming she did go down during the week upon his request, he would have expected her to ‘schedule adjust,’ which she commonly did.”
Barrett’s contention that she forged a timecard to obtain city payment for her translation work for Goodman at the police chief’s behest is controverted by demonstrable facts and evidence, Larson said.
“Barrett now alleges that she forged a time card for this alleged incident at Chief Goodman’s directive,” Larson wrote. “However, Chief Goodman never once told Barrett to misrepresent her time on her timesheet, and he certainly would not have signed off on such a timesheet. As evidence, Barrett somehow gained possession of her timesheet, and presented it to the investigator. Notably, however, the signature on the timesheet is a stamp of Chief Goodman’s signature – not his physical signature. Chief Goodman has made it his practice to personally review and sign Barrett’s timesheets. The use of his signature stamp demonstrates that he did not review and sign the timesheet in question – which would only be consistent with a scenario in which Barrett avoided showing him the timesheet and instead added his stamped signature so that he would not know that she failed to schedule adjust for the alleged San Diego trip. To be clear, Chief Goodman did not and would never direct a subordinate to violate department policy, nor did he or would he ever violate department policy by requiring his executive assistant to run his personal errands.”
Larson intimated that there are further details to support Goodman’s position that he did not engage in any impropriety in allowing Barrett to facilitate his communication with his housekeeper.
“What is clear based on these facts alone is that the city manager and mayor’s placement of Chief Goodman on administrative leave, and the referral of his file to the district attorney based on the petty and false allegations brought by Barrett, is nothing more than the city using Barrett’s false allegations to retaliate against Chief Goodman for refusing to do the mayor’s and Thouvenell’s political bidding. It is imperative that the city councilmembers closely examine the claims above and root out the corruption that is infesting the city ranks.”
Yesterday, Thursday June 25, the city council held a special meeting, called with only 24 hours notice. The agenda for the meeting referenced a “closed session” discussion of “significant exposure to litigation.” No further description of the matter was given, and the council’s substantive exchanges at the meeting all took place outside the scrutiny of the public.
On a relatively regular basis, the city council undertakes during its regularly scheduled meetings closed session discussion of issues of potential litigation. Because of confidentiality privilege extending to legal matters involving the city, there was no explicit explanation of what prompted the need for yesterday’s special meeting, nor was there confirmation that the substance of Larson’s letter, delivered to the city on Wednesday, prompted the meeting. That, nonetheless, was the widespread assumption of many in the community, and a rally involving over 100 Upland residents was held at City Hall starting roughly a half hour before the special city council meeting commenced at 2:30 p.m. Because of social distancing precautions imposed as a result of the coronavirus crisis, only a limited number of people were allowed into the council chamber at a time. In the public comment portion of the meeting before the council adjourned into its closed session, more than 20 speakers expressed support for Goodman.
Thereafter, the council retreated to an internal City Hall conference room for its discussion, during which some members of the public openly speculated about the likelihood that the council would move to reinstate Goodman as police chief. That expectation was not immediately met, however. Upon the conclusion of the closed session, it was reported that the council had taken no reportable action.
Neither Mayor Stone nor Thouvenell responded to emails sent to them requesting their version of events and a response to Larson’s assertions in his letter to the mayor and city council.
A phone message left at the police department for Barrett had elicited no response by press time.
With San Bernardino County’s known COVID-19 infection rate rising in a geometric progression beyond the initial stage of the virus’s spread in the late winter and early spring, the lion’s share of the safeguards which state and local authorities had imposed to “flatten the curve” of contagion have been lifted, even as signs that the peril that had prompted the unprecedented safety measures is about to manifest.
As of today, 11,290 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed within the county, along with 248 deaths.
On a bi-hourly basis, an examination of statistics shows, the potentially deadly condition is compounding in the county population nearly on a par with what was taking the virus a whole week to accomplish in March.
In the last seven days, there have been 2,576 new cases of the coronavirus detected in the county, equal to 15.33 cases per hour. By comparison, as of March 13, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in San Bernardino County. On March 27, the county had logged 64 known cases of the malady, and three deaths.
With the outset of June, the State of California and the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health began to progressively dismantle the regime that had been put in place to slow the coronavirus from spreading. Stay-at-home orders, closures of restaurants and service business entailing direct or close human contact, requirements that individuals wear masks in public, and both park and school closures were dispensed with.
Though the scale of testing has increased, indications are that the disease is on the march, increasing on a trajectory that will overwhelm hospitals and medical facilities within two to three weeks if as little as five percent percent of the infected population becomes critical. Meanwhile, even as authorities have begun to prepare makeshift hospitals at certain locations around the county that resemble those from the American Civil War or World War I, governmental authorities are unwilling, out of fear of provoking public unrest and protest, to reinstitute the safety mandates imposed on the public three months ago.
Public health officials declined to discuss with the Sentinel the prospect that the escalation in the number of known cases and the ending of citizen constraints will result in a full-blown contagion overwhelming the county’s medical capability.
Because of the coronavirus crisis, the San Bernardino County Democratic Central Committee has lain dormant for more than three months. Yesterday, members of the central committee’s executive board held a teleconference using the Zoom program, allowing several issues impacting the party to be discussed, including the scheduling of next month’s meeting of the committee’s general membership, at which the reorganization of the county party’s leadership is to be undertaken.
Several party activists had been hopeful that the reactivation of party activity in the county after this spring’s unanticipated interruption would provide an opportunity for the Democrats to seize the potential that voter registration numbers moving decidedly in their favor presents to reverse decades of the Republican domination of San Bernardino County.
The meeting, however, bogged down with procedural and parliamentary snags that prevented reformists from breaking the hold the party’s long-in-place leadership exercised over the proceedings. The factionalism within the committee, which has long been apparent and a factor in the inability of the party to achieve traction in the county, was as pronounced as ever.
The Republican Party has been in ascendancy in San Bernardino County for two generations. In 2009, however, the number of registered Democrats throughout the county as a whole eclipsed the number of registered Republicans. Nonetheless, that did not precipitate much in the way of political change. Republicans in general throughout the United States and California turn out to vote in greater numbers than do Democrats. That is no less true in San Bernardino County.
Since 2009, the voter registration numbers in favor of the Democratic Party locally have continued to climb. While the county’s blue collar Fifth District, stretching from the midway point of Fontana on the west through Rialto, Bloomington, Colton and to the middle of San Bernardino on the east, has been a Democratic stronghold for upwards of 60 years, the other four supervisorial districts were previously Republican in their orientation. One by one, the Fourth, Third and Second districts have come to be inhabited by more Democrats than Republicans. Only the First District, which covers the lion’s share of the county’s Mojave Desert expanse, remains narrowly Republican in terms of its overall voter numbers.
At this juncture, the numerical advantage the Democrats enjoy in three-fifths of the county is not insubstantial. In the Third District, which includes the cities of Grand Terrace, Loma Linda, the eastern half of San Bernardino, Highland, Yucaipa, Big Bear, Yucca Valley, Twentynine Palms and Barstow, the gap favoring the Democrats in four of the county’s supervisorial districts is narrowest. As of this week, 80,769 or 36.4 percent of the Third District’s 222,090 voters are Democrats, compared to 79,474 or 35.3 percent who are Republicans. The remainder are voters who have declined to state a party affiliation or belong to the Peace & Freedom, American Independent, Green, Libertarian or more obscure parties. Of the Second District’s 226,243 voters, 92,343 or 40.8 percent, are Democrats and 69,766 or 30.8 percent are Republicans. That district encompasses western Fontana, Rancho Cucamonga, north Upland and San Antonio Heights, Mt. Baldy, Wrightwood, Crestline and Lake Arrowhead. In the Fourth District, consisting of south Upland, Ontario, Montclair, Chino and Chino Hills, 87,862 voters or 44.2 percent affiliate with the Democrats, while 52,447 or 26.4 percent of the 198,984 voters there are registered as Republicans. In the Fifth District, more than half of its 187,248 voters, 95,226 or 50.9 percent, are Democrats, and 35,001 or 18.7 percent are Republicans. Only among the 201,603 voters in the far-flung First District, which includes Oak Hills, Hesperia, Victorville, Adelanto, Apple Valley, Trona and Needles, are the Republicans a plurality, at 70,837 or 35.1 percent, compared to 70,290 Democrats, representing 34.9 percent of those eligible to vote. In the county overall, there are more than four Democrats for every three Republicans, as 426,490 or 41.2 percent of the county’s 1,036,168 voters are Democrats and 306,525 or 29.6 percent are Republicans.
In the face of these numbers, San Bernardino County paradoxically remains one of the few remaining Republican bastions in the state.
Only with regard to representation at the federal level are the Democrats in San Bernardino County in ascendance. Both of California’s U.S. Senators – Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein – are Democrats. Their presence in the U.S. Legislature’s Upper Chamber is a direct function of the overwhelming majority of Democrats throughout the Golden State. Among the five Congress members currently representing San Bernardino County at the federal level, one – Paul Cook – is a Republican, and four – Pete Aguilar, Judy Chu, Gil Cisneros and Norma Torres – are Democrats. That is because, however, the districts for several of San Bernardino County’s members of the House of Representatives extend beyond the county boundaries into areas of Los Angeles and Orange counties which are heavily Democratic. An analysis of the vote in the Congressional races in San Bernardino County going back to 2016 shows that neither Chu nor Cisneros would likely be in office if the determination of who was to represent them in the 27th Congressional District and the 39th Congressional District, respectively, had been left up to San Bernardino County voters alone.
San Bernardino’s state legislative delegation is majority Republican, with three of its five state senators currently Republicans and four of its eight assembly members Republicans. Again, it is because the districts of certain of those legislators extend beyond San Bernardino County’s borders that some of those Democratic Party-aligned office holders can claim incumbency. In the State Senate, 25th District Democrat Anthony Portantino would not hold his place in the state’s upper legislative chamber if San Bernardino County voters had their way. And Democratic Assemblyman Chris Holden likewise would not be in office if his political fate had been decided by the San Bernardino County voters within State Assembly District 41.
Local elected offices in California are officially considered to be nonpartisan. In San Bernardino County, however, party affiliation is a primary consideration whenever and at whatever level an election is held.
At the most basic level of local governance in the county – among the elected members of the 24 city and town councils and the county board of supervisors – Republicans have remained in control. In 17 of the county’s 24 cities, the Republicans form a majority on those panels. In two of those cities there is no clear partisan leaning among elected decision-makers. In only five of the county’s 24 cities are there more Democrats on their ultimate decision-making panels than Republicans. Currently on the board of supervisors, four of its five members are Republicans.
In this year’s March 3 election, Robert Lovingood, the Republican supervisor in the First District, did not seek reelection. As a consequence of that election’s outcome, he is to be replaced with Congressman Paul Cook, another Republican, who opted out of seeking to return to Washington, D.C. and instead will represent a large swath of the desert at the county seat in San Bernardino come December. On March 3, Dawn Rowe, the appointed Republican supervisor in the Third District, was also victorious, earning the right to remain in office until 2024. The sole Democrat currently serving on the board of supervisors, Josie Gonzales, is termed out and therefore did not seek reelection on March 3. Instead, she supported her chief of staff, Dan Flores, in the race. Flores, however finished in third place behind the top vote-getter, Rialto Councilman Joe Baca, Jr., a Democrat, and Fontana City Councilman Jesse Armendarez, a Republican. There is now to be a run-off in November, pitting Baca against Armendarez. While most political prognosticators consider that race to be Baca’s to lose, Armendarez is still in a position, if he campaigns hard and works like the devil, to emerge victorious and completely shut the Democrats out from the representation on the county board of supervisors. As it stands, for the next two years the Democrats will have no more than a single representative on the five-member board of supervisors to the Republicans’ four members.
Armendarez has already shown he has the ability, as a Republican, to overcome the registration advantage the Democrats enjoy. The City of Fontana, half of which lies within the Fifth District, is virtually as Democratic as the Fifth District. Of that city’s 94,619 voters, 47,371 or 50.1 percent, are Democrats, with slightly more than a third of that number, 17,856 or 18.9 percent, registered as Republicans. Yet, of the five members of the Fontana City Council, four – Armendarez, Mayor Acquanetta Warren, Phil Cothran, Jr. and John Roberts – are Republicans. Only one of its members, Jesse Sandoval, is a Democrat.
A similar pattern exists elsewhere in the county. Given the Republicans’ slight voter registration advantage in the county’s First District, it is quite natural that the current First District supervisor and the supervisor-elect there are Republicans. In the county’s Third District, it is not considered unusual or even remarkable that that jurisdiction is represented by a Republican, as the general six-to-eight percent greater Republican voter turnout in elections offsets the 0.9 percent registration advantage the Democrats claim there. But in the Second District, Democratic voters outnumber their Republican counterparts by 22,577, or ten percent. The Democrats in 2018 did not bother to field a candidate in the Second District. In the Fourth District, where the Democrats have 35,415 more registered voters than do the Republicans, a 17.8 percent advantage, the Democrats failed to get their candidate – Gloria Negrete-McLeod – elected in 2014 and 2018. McLeod’s candidacy failed despite her being in 2014 an incumbent congresswoman and one of the most well-known politicians in the district, after having previously served in both the California Senate and the Assembly. Both election years she lost to Curt Hagman, a former Chino Hills mayor who in 2014 was an incumbent assemblyman. The campaigns for Negrete-McLeod were lackluster at best, while those working on behalf of Hagman worked energetically and showed determination and tenacity, managing in both cases to eke out a narrow victory.
A growing number of the members of the San Bernardino County Democratic Central Committee have come to attribute the party’s year-in, year-out poor performance to Chris Robles, who since 2012 has been the chairman of the San Bernardino County Democratic Central Committee. The committee’s members had hoped that putting Robles into the role of party leader would pay off, calculating that the expertise he had accumulated in his professional career as a political consultant would redound to the benefit of the party as well as Democratic candidates. Giving him control over the party machinery and its fundraising functions was intended to benefit Democratic candidates at all levels within the 20,105-square mile county, as the committee members assumed that Robles would so thoroughly commit himself to the party and its fortunes that it would be as if the Democrats were tapping into political and electioneering expertise worth hundreds of thousands of dollars per election cycle.
Relatively early on, however, it was observed that Robles would, after a minimal and barebones consultation with candidates, press on them one of his cards, suggesting that he could be of more assistance to them if they were to hire him to serve as their campaign consultant. This grated on some members of the party, who believed Robles was using his position to advance his consulting business rather than fundraising for candidates or guiding them toward victory in his capacity as party chairman. With the county party organization’s coordinated strategy virtually nonexistent, the Democrats’ performance in San Bernardino County has consistently lagged dramatically behind their numerical superiority.
In 2017, a year into Robles’ most recent term as chairman, there was an uprising in the central committee as a core group moved to oust him from his leadership role, citing what they said were irregularities with regard to the stewardship of party funds and Robles’ work as a consultant on the part of some Republican candidates. A significant contingent of the central committee at one of its meetings managed to call the question to depose him, prevailing in the vote. Robles, however, was able, after the fact, to undo what had occurred through the use of a parliamentary challenge to the voting procedure removing him.
Since then, the constant challenges of his chairmanship have subsided somewhat, and Robles has managed to remain in place.
At Thursday’s Zoom meeting, many of those involved in the teleconference were looking forward to the opportunity it represented to embark not only on the efforts to advance the party in the upcoming November election but to effectuate a major changeover in the county party itself, consisting of revamping the committee’s leadership. Toward that end, several party members were looking toward succeeding where they had failed in 2017 when they sought midterm to depose Robles as chairman.
Robles, however, seemed to understand that his leadership role is at risk. Indeed, the one arena of political action in which Robles has consistently demonstrated his mastery is that relating to maintaining control of the central committee. One of the manifestations of this is the fashion in which he has used his purview as the chairman to install a group of his loyalists in the executive roles within the central committee. Each time a revolt has manifested, he has called upon those on whom he had bestowed party positions and perquisites to rally to sustain him.
It was no different Thursday. Under the arrangement for the Zoom meeting, all members of the executive board of the central committee were able to actively participate in the meeting, while the committee’s general membership was given access to observe the proceedings, but not actively participate. Only Robles himself, executive board members and those Robles chose to recognize could actively, that is verbally, participate. At his own discretion, Robles was empowered to cut off the microphone of any of those participating in the teleconference. Throughout the meeting, Robles electronically muted all attendees except the executive board members.
Two items that came for discussion Thursday were crucial to the chairmanship question for upcoming 2020-21. The reorganization of the committee by tradition takes place every four years in July, at which point the full membership votes on who will serve as chairman for the next four years, followed by the chairman’s nomination of executive board members, after which a ratifying vote of the general committee ensues. The second critical issue discussed was the submission of dues by the committee members to qualify them as members for the upcoming year.
Traditionally, the committee members submit their dues, a nominal fee of roughly $50, in July, which every fourth year falls within a month of the selection of the chairman. The dues are thereafter deposited into the central committee’s operating fund and utilized in accordance with the consensus of the chairman, the executive committee and the general membership.
Robles gave indication that the committee’s members were expected to pay their dues prior to the reorganization meeting of the committee in July and indicated that those not paying their 2020-21 dues will not be eligible to vote on any upcoming matters, including the leadership succession question. The payment of dues prior to the reorganization meeting would effectually give Robles as current chairman discretion over the expenditure of fees paid for the upcoming year. When the executive board concluded the meeting, committee members who are not on the executive board were allowed to speak. Ruth Musser-Lopez brought up the subject of dues payment, citing and displaying on the chat screen the committee’s bylaws which state that the newly organized committee shall establish the dues at the reorganization meeting and the members would have 30 days to pay them. Musser-Lopez said that the current executive board had no authority to establish what the dues would be for the new term, nor to collect the dues on behalf of the new committee, and that the county party’s “ActBlue” website link directed members to a payment site that indicated the dues were being paid for the 2019-2020 term. She objected to the confusing commingling of the new funds with the current funds controlled by the board. She told Robles that if he prohibited members from voting because they didn’t pay their dues prior to the meeting, that he could expect a formal challenge with the state party. Tim Prince, a San Bernardino attorney and also a current member of the committee, concurred with Musser-Lopez. His and other expressions by members suggest that it is widely held that the dues being required prior to the meeting is a ploy by Robles to purposely exclude a number of those members he has strong reason to believe will not vote in favor of keeping him in the role of chairman and to limit the number of committee members who will be able to vote to select the other executive board seats.
There was further intrigue with regard to the timing of the vote. While a deadline of July 13 has been set for nominations for chairman, it is not clear when the next meeting, which will again follow the Zoom format, will be held. Previously, a date of July 18 was mentioned, but there has been no determination that the meeting will be held on that date, which falls on a Saturday. Normally, the Democratic Central Committee has met on Thursday nights.
The Sentinel has learned that a consensus is building around Kristen Washington, the president of the Redlands Area Democratic Club, as an alternate to Robles as chairman.
During the Thursday Zoom meeting, there was a further demonstration of the factionalism and personal rivalries that have pervaded the party and kept it from hitching all of the horses up to the same side of the wagon so they can all pull with concentrated power in concert.
Roger La Plante, a member of the Democratic Central Committee who is the party’s voter registration committee chairman as well as a one-time candidate for the Apple Valley City Council and more recently a candidate for State Assembly in the 33rd District, is now running for the Victorville City Council. He had sought the endorsement of the Democratic Party in that race. Victorville, where 24,468 or 44.8 percent of its 54,674 voters are registered Democrats and 12,990 or 23.8 percent are registered as Republicans, now has a city council where three of its five members are Republicans. So far, however, La Plante has been unable to get the endorsement of his own party in that contest, which will take place in November.
During Thursday’s meeting, La Plante registered his objection to the treatment he said he has been accorded by another Democrat, in this case, Adelanto City Councilwoman Stevevonna Evans.
La Plante, who was formerly a member of the California Democratic Party’s executive board in Assembly District 33, was edged out for that position by Evans last year. In March, she was a candidate for county board of supervisors in District 1.
According to La Plante, Evans defamed him, stating that he was mentally ill, was not taking his medication and needed to return to taking that medication, and that he was a racist. He further claimed that Evans had allowed a Facebook page she has co-control of to be utilized to falsely state that Joe Biden is a child molester. An Army veteran who was stationed in Europe during the 1980s and saw combat with the 1st Inf Div Big Red 1 Iraq in 1991, La Plante is retired from the military with a full disability. He said the latter circumstance formed the basis of Evans’ statements with regard to his mental illness. He said her remarks were a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act and that in making them, she was seeking to prevent him from participating in the political process.
Evans told the Sentinel she had not made any of the statements about La Plante attributed to her, but did tell him that he needed therapy.
She provided the Sentinel with 81 separate screenshots of an extended set of Facebook exchanges involving her, La Plante and at least 31 other individuals in which they exchange a host of accusations and unflattering characterizations of one another.
The back-and-forth sheds a good deal more heat than light, and captures numerous statements from both that, in the generations before the declension of public discourse brought on by what now routinely occurs within the context of social media, would have been anathema to anyone holding public office or vying for the same.
Both implied, suggested or outright stated the other was a racist.
La Plante, who is white, said that Evans had engaged in race baiting by claiming that Malcolm Harsch, a 38-year-old itinerant man who was subsequently demonstrated through a heretofore unknown security video to have committed suicide by hanging himself on May 31, had been lynched in Victorville.
At one point, La Plante referred to Evans and another woman as “racist cowards.”
This prompted Evans, who is African-American, to ask, “Do you know the definition of racism? It is very clear that in America, black people can’t be racist.”
This was augmented by a lecture to La Plante by someone named Margarita Lacabe, who asserted, “Black people literally cannot be racist when they live in a white supremacist society like ours. Racism requires power, which black people don’t enjoy directly.”
Evans asserted at one point that LaPlantge typified “white fragility.”
Melinda Richardson characterized La Plante as “a sensitive old white man who wants to be an elected official, not knowing how to navigate tough conversations without name calling.”
At one point La Plante called Evans and her associates “commies,” but later belittled Evans or a woman he associated with her for involving herself in an apparent entrepreneurial venture in which she employed one of her children in selling slogan-bearing T-shirts during a protest rally.
La Plante indicated he resented Evans for recommending that he receive therapy, saying it was unprofessional of her to make such a personal jab.
Evans responded, “I don’t think referring to therapy is unprofessional. Most adults need it. I’m just trying to find a way to help you.”
Having previously lived in Apple Valley before he more recently moved to Victorville where he is now seeking election to the city council, La Plante objected to speculation about where his place of residence was.
When some of those involved in the exchanges expressed the belief that La Plante was a discredit to the Democratic Party, Evans provided them with the address of the San Bernardino County Democratic Central Committee so they could call for his resignation.
Another participant in the exchanges, Angela Mayo, upbraided La Plante for supporting Joe Biden, claiming, “There is proof that Biden is a racist. And his stance on certain policies could be considered racist.”
La Plante was buffeted by another participant, Lee Wilson, who told him, “You support mass murders.”
To someone uninvolved in the fracas, it was difficult to understand what had led to the meltdown between Evans and La Plante, or what either thought they might gain from the exchanges.
In the midst of the conflagration, La Plante stated that in light of the “defamation” he was being subjected to, “I have a right to defend my honor.”
Evans, meanwhile, at several points sought to have La Plante simply leave her Facebook chatroom, one of those times accusing La Plante of “stalking me and my page.”
La Plante told the Sentinel that he previously had no issues with Evans and had endorsed her in her run for city council. More recently, he said, she had allowed posts on her Facebook page which were both inaccurate and unfair to him, and he had sought to have her remove them. “I’m running for the Victorville City Council, so I’m asking her to retract those things that were posted,” La Plante said. “She has thousands and thousands of followers on social media, and it has come to the point where she is defaming me. So, I’m suing her through the forum of the central committee to have her remove them. What she is saying is not conducive to our party making gains in Democrats holding elective office.”
In recent weeks, La Plante said, he had seen Evans at rallies stating that Harsch had been lynched, which was simply not true, he said. And it is now proven to not be true by two separate videos that captured his act of suicide he said.
“I told her she should not be promoting that idea, no matter what her cause is, because it is not true that Malcolm Harsch was lynched by white racists, and now she is calling me a racist,” he said, adding that he has retracted his statement calling her a racist, which he said was made in the heat of the moment. He offered an apology to Evans.
Evans personalized things unnecessarily, La Plante said. “I am a Joe Biden delegate. She supported Bernie [Sanders],” he said.
La Plante said he is shocked by the hostility leveled at him and other Democrats by members of their own party. He said he is a conservative Democrat. “They lost,” La Plante said of the “liberal” Sanders supporters. “I represent veterans. I was in the military. I think they hate veterans. They disrespect us. I want to take our party back from the ones that are trying to take it over. I’m for America. I’m a conservative Democrat. I’m a Democrat. But I’m an American first and foremost. I’m against people perpetuating the demagoguery.”
La Plante said it is true that in San Bernardino County, the Republicans are cohesive and the Democrats are at each other’s throats.
“We’ve got guys like [Republican] Jay Obernolte walking into these seats [as in Obernolte’s case, the 8th Congressional District], while we’re fighting each other and taking each other out like crazy.”
Evans chalked her differences with La Plante up to her having defeated him in the competition for the current position she holds on the California Democratic Party’s executive board for the 33rd Assembly District and his having been removed from the Facebook page she and others participate in, which she said, incidentally, was not her decision but one made by “another organizer, due to him attacking her and telling her how to run the group and to change the name.”
On that Facebook page, she said, La Plante had “been blasted. He decided to play the victim and come up with these outrageous stories, is my guess,” she said. “We both ran for the Assembly District 33 Executive Board seat. I won by a landslide. He and another candidate both attempted to appeal that with no success.”
Evans said, “Neither my kids nor I have ever sold T-shirts.”
Foul play is feared in the disappearance of Erika Lloyd, who sojourned from her Bay Area home in Walnut Creek on June 11 or thereabouts to San Bernardino County’s Desert Outback, where she has since vanished.
There is reason to believe that Lloyd, 37, intended to spend a few days in Joshua Tree National Park, most likely alone, but even that is uncertain.
What is known is that Park rangers came across Lloyd’s vandalized 2006 Black Honda Accord on Monday, June 15 at Indian Cove campground near Jumbo Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park.
There was no camping equipment in the car or in its immediate vicinity when the rangers observed the vehicle.
The back window and windshield had been broken, and the dashboard damaged. The rangers noted the vehicle’s presence in a report, and left a note on the car. That evening, the car had been removed.
The next day, Tuesday June 16, a California Highway Patrolman spotted the car on Shelton Road, east of Twentynine Palms. The car was facing the highway. The CHP had it towed away.
At that point, Lloyd had not been reported missing.
In previous phone contact with her family and friends, Lloyd had indicated she was on a road trip. All phone contact with her ended on June 14.
On Wednesday, June 17, her family reported her missing, giving indication she might be in the area of Joshua Tree National Park. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department dispatched a helicopter to scour the area. That effort was not fruitful.
The Morongo Basin Sheriff’s Station was put on a special alert to be on the lookout for any sightings of her throughout the entirety of the more than 3,000 square mile desert area that includes Joshua Tree, Joshua Tree National Park, Twenynine Palms, Yucca Valley and their outlying areas. Park Rangers began searching areas within the park. Sheriff’s deputies, including ones with canines, searched areas at the entrance of the park and its periphery, as well as along Highway 62.
The Joshua Tree Search and Rescue Team engaged in an effort to find her or spot any signs that she was in the area.
By June 19, her parents caught a flight from Maryland to California in the hope that they could be of assistance in the search.
One troubling aspect of the case is Lloyd had deleted her Facebook page prior to her disappearance. She was active on Instagram until June 15.
According to her sister-in-law, Lloyd was “under a lot of stress and wanted to get away and unplug.”
She was employed at a beauty salon and had a young son.
Lloyd is described as Caucasian, 5 feet 7, slender with brown hair and blue eyes.
The Highway Patrol’s missing persons division was initially assigned to the case, and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is now the lead agency. Detective Alan Pennington is working the case, which bears a reference number of #092001019. Pennington can be contacted at email@example.com or (760) 366-4180.
Upland Mayor Debbie Stone this week abruptly rescinded her appointment of Brinda Sarathy to the planning commission.
Stone said she had done so because she disagreed with sentiments that Sarathy had expressed suggesting it was inadvisable for Upland and local government in general to rush toward approving development projects in the midst of the coronavirus crisis while members of the public are precluded from fully participating in the meetings where those proposals are considered and voted upon. Stone said she had not known about Sarathy’s views when she made the appointment. Sarathy’s tractate on the matter had appeared in the May 8, 2020 edition of the Sentinel.
Sarathy had not been Stone’s first choice for the planning commission. She had originally tapped Thomas Grahn, who currently works in the planning department with the City of Ontario, and Lorraine Kindred, the vice president for public affairs with National CORE, a development company, for the panel which considers land use issues in the city and makes recommendations on them to the city council. Grahn’s selection was ratified by the remainder of the council, but Kindred’s professional relationship to Jeff Burum and James Previti, Jr., who both have interest in property and development projects in Upland, was deemed a potential conflict. Her nomination was not confirmed.
Stone then chose Sarathy, a professor of environmental analysis at Pitzer College and the director of the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability, to fill the post, the term for which begins next month and will last four years.
Sarathy was widely considered to be the most qualified of the dozen applicants for the position. It was anticipated her confirmation would be made without complication at the Monday, June 22 meeting. Instead, as the meeting was getting underway, Stone called for the removal of the agenda item relating to Sarathy’s appointment.
“I want to give a little bit of a brief background on why my decision was to remove it,” the mayor said. “Because I’m withdrawing my appointment of Brinda Sarathy, I know this will disappoint some people, and it appears to come at the last minute, so I want to explain how and why I plan to move forward. When the city council failed to approve my last nominee, I thought the most transparent and quickest way to fill the seat would be to go back to the results from the interview process from December and pick someone from the applications that has already been vetted. When I did that, Brinda’s application was ranked at the top, and I hoped that she would get the support from the council. So we contacted Brinda and confirmed she was still interested, and when she said yes, staff put the appointment on the agenda.”
Stone continued, “Only after the agenda was published was I made aware of an op-ed that Brinda had published and circulated on social media. And in that op-ed, Brinda accused the city of polarizing the city and the pandemic and trampling on people’s rights. Brinda is certainly entitled to her opinion, and free to express her views however she likes, but I don’t have to agree with them. As the mayor, I believe the views she expressed in the article are incompatible with being a planning commissioner. If I had known this is how she felt before the agenda last week, I would never have proposed her appointment. I want to be clear that my decision to pull the appointment is based solely on my policy differences with Brinda. It’s not personal. I feel badly for her. That’s why I contacted her over the weekend to tell her what I was thinking and to apologize. I want to do the same right now and apologize to her publicly. Brinda, I still respect your intelligence and commitment to the city. I just don’t think the planning commission is the right place, and I’m sorry that I have put you in this awkward position. I also want to apologize to my colleagues on the council. I know we all want to see the vacancy filled, so what I plan to do is reopen the application for the interview process as soon as possible.”
In the piece published by the Sentinel on May 8, Sarathy wrote, “There is no question that individual rights of free assembly are in tension with requirements to restrict our movement and mass gathering in public spaces. Medical experts rightly note that physical distancing serves as a bulwark to protect public health and, as a scientist and academic, I fully agree.
“Yet, if the public is being asked to radically alter individual behaviors for the greater good, then we should commensurately expect our elected officials to not abuse the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to ram through development projects that many believe will harm other arenas of the public welfare over the long run,” Sarathy asserted. “Unfortunately, some municipalities are doing just this: they are using the COVID-19 emergency as cover to fast track highly contested projects, skirt environmental regulations, and further benefit those already in positions of power and influence, and all without being fully accountable to their actual constituents.”
Sarathy continued, “Over the past month, in my own town of Upland (ostensibly the “City of Gracious Living”), I have witnessed COVID-19 restrictions being weaponized by a majority of elected officials and city staff to disallow in-person city council and planning commission meetings. While it is imperative to disallow in-person attendance on the grounds of protecting public health, our elected officials should similarly pause decision-making around highly controversial developments, on the grounds of protecting democracy. Instead, participation at Upland City Council and planning commission sessions are now mediated through Zoom calls and phone-in access for public comment. These remote sessions drastically blunt public participation and further diminish the accountability of our elected officials to their constituents.”
By Carlos Avalos
While the Sentinel covers San Bernardino County, I have prevailed upon the editors to permit me to expound on a topic that arises out of events in Norco, which is just across the Riverside County line, as the issues involved are of topical concern.
On June 4, 2020, a Norco resident emailed the city council and mayor about concerns with regard to public service accountability, recent and past police brutality, as well as injustices at the hands of police. The Norco resident also urged the release of an action plan that has been formed with local black leaders; the resident emphasized that all people should be treated equally in Norco under the law regardless of skin color. The letter provided a link to the Police Use of Force Project (http://useofforceproject.org/#project), which by its own description “is a numbers-driven examination of the violent tactics that police departments in America’s 100 largest cities are currently using.” The email importuned the mayor and city council of Norco to have the Norco city government officially acknowledge and stand in solidarity with and support the Black Lives Matter movement. It asked that the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, which provides contract law enforcement services to Norco, to adopt eight reforms pertaining to when and how force is used. The resident went on to tell the mayor and council that these eight practices, when used in police departments across the country, show a significant drop in killings, in one case a statistical drop of 72 percent (https://8cantwait.org/). These included the banning of chokeholds and strangleholds, the use of de-escalation, requiring warning before shooting, and empowering officers to intervene and stop excessive force by their colleagues, and a comprehensive reporting requisite each time an officer uses forces or threatens to do so.
On June 5, Councilman Ted Hoffman responded.
Noting he “grew up in a Christian home,” had been given a “Christian school” education and was instilled with the value of “tolerance and equal treatment of everyone,” he related that he had “served in the US Army during the Vietnam War with men and women of all races, religious beliefs [and] ethnic backgrounds.” He further related that he was a retired law enforcement officer, “having served 26 years as a full-time deputy sheriff and 3 years a reserve deputy sheriff with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, I can attest that the misuse of force or the improper use of force is not tolerated in the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.” Furthermore, he claimed, “sheriff’s department personnel receive training and instruction in race relationship and tolerance. I can attest, racial bias is not tolerated and does not exist in the Riverside Sheriff’s Department and deputies that exhibit bias or intolerance are ‘weeded out’ of the ranks.”
Citing Wall Street reporter Jason Riley, Hoffman said “Data shows that 93 percent of black homicide victims are killed by other blacks…” that the white crime rate is “much lower than the black rate [and] “Blacks commit violent crimes at 7 to 10 times the rate that whites do.” Hoffman asserted, “Blacks committed 52 percent of homicides between 1980 and 2008, despite composing just 13 percent of the population. Across the same timeframe, whites committed 45 percent of homicides while composing 77% of the population, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.” FBI statistics demonstrated that in 2013, “black criminals carrying out 38 per cent of murders, compared to 31.1 per cent for whites,” he said. Citing author Heather McDonald, Hoffman propounded that “Blacks are 10 percent of the population in Los Angeles, but commit 42 percent of its robberies and 34 percent of its felonies. Whites make up 29 percent of the city’s population, and commit 5 percent of its robberies and 13 percent of its felonies. In New York City, blacks committed 75 percent of all shootings, 70 percent of all robberies, and 66 percent of all violent crime, despite only composing 23 percent of the population.”
In his screed, Hoffman then directly quoted political scientist James Q. Wilson and the psychologist Richard Herrnstein that “The overrepresentation of blacks among arrested persons persists throughout the criminal justice system. Though prosecutors and judges may well make discriminatory judgments, such decisions do not account for more than a small fraction of the overrepresentation of blacks in prison.”
According to Councilman Hoffman, “This data disproves the notion that racism is what drives higher rates of arrests among the blacks than among whites or broader America.”
Councilman Hoffman said he could not support the call for reform of the policing methodology in his community, “because to me ‘All Lives Matter.’”
That I disagree with Mr. Hoffman is an understatement.
Mr. Hoffman said he wanted to make clear in his response email to his constituent that these were strictly his views, and not the city’s. One of the biggest complaints the Sentinel got from Norco residents was that even though he stated that the views he was expressing were his personal views, he did so as a member of the city council and through his official city council email.
Instead of speaking to his constituent about concerns relating to criminal justice reform, police brutality, and Norco’s plan to combat such brutality, he essentially denied that such brutality exists, and further implied, basically, that there is not a problem with policing in America. He remained upbeat about the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s “use of force” procedures and minimalized any complaints relating to it, asserting the department’s internal review of the deputies’ actions were adequate.
A study was done in 2020 by the Racial & Identity Profiling Advisory Board in conjunction with the Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015, which is intended to shepherd data collection and provide public reports with the ultimate objective to eliminate racial and identity profiling and improve and understand diversity in law enforcement through training, education, and outreach. It surveyed statistics relating to the California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, San Diego Police Department, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, San Francisco Police Department, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. “The most commonly reported reason for a stop across all racial/ethnic groups was traffic violations, followed by reasonable suspicion,” the report states. “A higher percentage of African American individuals were stopped for reasonable suspicion than any other racial identity group. Overall 9.9 percent of stopped individuals were subject to a person or property search. African Americans were 18.7 percent more likely to get searched than the rest of the ethnic breakdown categories.”
The study stated that “search yield rate analyses showed that when officers searched individuals, contraband or evidence was generally found on Caucasian individuals at higher rates than individuals from all other groups.”
If contraband is found on Caucasian individuals at higher rates, is this reflected in the treatment of them by police officers compared to minorities? Is this reflected in the number of minorities that are imprisoned compared to whites?
In this report the second most common reported reason for stopping behind traffic violations was “reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.” African-Americans were at the top of that list for reasonable suspicions across all of the departments tested. In this study, and many like it, you can easily see that African-Americans and minorities are at the top of every list when it comes to negative/different treatment by police as compared to other ethnicities.
Does it show that there is a systematic problem? Maybe not. Is their systemic/institutionalized racial bias in policing? The question then arises: If there is not racial bias in policing, a problem with the overall criminal justice system, and police brutality, why are people from every walk of life from countries all over the world protesting over a man who was killed in Minneapolis?
This study found that the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department has a clearly written stand-alone policy that was last revised October 7, 2019. The policy is not available online. It defines bias-based policing and includes a component on the limited circumstances in which characteristics of individuals may be considered. There is no component on encounters with the community. The policy includes a component on officer training and encourages members to familiarize themselves with racial and cultural differences if they have not yet received training. The policy does not include a component on data analysis; it does delineate; however, what data is collected for the Racial & Identity Profiling Advisory Board. The policy requires members to be responsible for reporting any biased-based policing they suspect or have knowledge of and encourages members to intervene whenever they see bias-based actions. The policy does not address supervisory review.
This aligns with what the Desert Sun reported on June 6, 2020. According to the Desert Sun, “the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to condemn the actions of Minneapolis police officers who killed George Floyd, but did not vote on a measure that called for the county sheriff’s department to undertake a review of its policies and report back to the board.” Riverside County Sheriff Chad Blanco stated that this action “was politically motivated.” This is interesting because that is exactly what Ted Hoffman told his worried constituent, that the Black Lives Matter Movement was political and that there was really no justification for it. This study is in direct contradiction with Hoffman’s notion that the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department has no need for improvement. In fact, this study which is recent, shows that the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department might have a few major issues in their department, with the biggest one being transparency.
A Norco resident countered Councilman Hoffman’s assertions, stating, “Wayne State University Professor Bradley Smith, who analyzed data on officer-caused homicides, finding minority representation in larger local departments had no significant influence on police-related killings. A similar study published in Criminal and Justice Behavior, however, examined shootings over a 15-year period in the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, finding non-Hispanic white officers were more likely to be involved in shootings than Hispanic and black officers.” This is relevant to the notion that Hoffman stated in is email about the diverse ethnic makeup of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
Racial diversity is a good thing in law enforcement. This does not mean it will positively influence the killing, treatment, or mistreatment of people. Hoffman wrongly correlates a relationship between the two.
Councilman Hoffman asserted, “If you were to look at the racial makeup of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department you will find it has a very diverse ethnic makeup, that reflects the county.” I would remind Councilman Hoffman that racial diversity in policing is one thing and racial diversity in upper management and the upper echelon of police unions is totally another. Both the former and latter are severely lacking.
Mr. Hoffman said that in his time as a narcotics officer he arrested several black men and women who sold drugs. Reality, statistics and common-sense show people who sell drugs are not just African-Americans.
With regard to Mr. Hoffman’s highlighting of black on black crime statistics from a 2016 report, in particular, that data shows that 93 percent of black homicide victims are killed by other blacks. The problem is the issue currently under discussion is criminal justice reform and police brutality, not black on black crime. As to Mr. Hoffman’s assertion that blacks commit violent crimes at 7 to 10 times the rate that whites do, it must have slipped Hoffman’s mind that we are not talking about the rate at which certain ethnic groups commit crimes. Hoffman’s spewing of facts and figures relating to African-Americans and crime appears to me to be demeaning rather than informative. Citing FBI statistics that show a higher percentage of the black population than the white population is arrested for murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, Mr. Hoffman said, “After reading these statistics, I hope you can understand that there needs to be change, but the change in attitude needs to be self-reflecting. The family unit is a powerful source of unity to foster respect for each other, no matter what race or religion you are. If you want to target the issue, then focus your energy on the actual source, not what a biased media tells you.” This implies that Ted Hoffman believes that African-Americans problems might be better if blacks had a powerful family unit.
The Norco residents told the Sentinel that a simple “No” response by Hoffman concerning the email would have sufficed instead of a racially charged email. Instead, he responded with a barrage of racial assumptions. He does not say one positive thing about African Americans, shows his lack of empathy, and quotes Heather Mac Donald, an American Conservative Scholar who has published papers with the title Myth of Systemic Police Racism.
It should be noted that many Norco residents were threatened and barraged with hate filled messages from anti-Black Lives Matter Norco residents. This is why they have stayed anonymous. One brave soul, Val Stevens of Norco, told the Sentinel, “The other day Norco resident Anita Willis’s son-in-law was in town. While working on his truck, a blue sedan drove by shouting racial slurs to him. Norco needs help, and needs it big. This has been going on too long for it to be 2020 and any person gets yelled at with racial epithets.”