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Monthly Archives: July 2020
Man Attempting To Provide Murder Evidence To Chino Police Department Gunned Down
A man reportedly attempting to provide homicide investigators with the Chino Police Department evidence relating to a murder was shot and killed yesterday by the officer sent to rendezvous with him less than two blocks from the department’s headquarters.
The identity of the dead man has not been released. According to word that was spreading throughout the city of 95,000, the man had taken possession of a knife he believed had been used in a fatal stabbing/slashing. He made a 9-1-1 call to the department at 3:43 p.m., requesting to speak to a police officer. Concerned about bringing a weapon into the police department headquarters, he requested that officers meet with him at the intersection of Walnut Avenue and 10th Street, which is less than an eighth of a mile from the police department headquarters.
When the police officer arrived at the preset location, the man was there. When he emerged from his vehicle and approached the officer, the officer perceived the subject to be approaching him with a weapon, drew his service firearm and shot the man, fatally.
According to the department, the man had the knife in his hand, openly on display.
After the shooting, that portion of Walnut Avenue closest to the scene of the shooting was temporarily shut down, as was 10th Street north of Walnut, while officers gathered evidence relating to the shooting.
The officer who fired the fatal shot has been placed on administrative leave. The officer has not been identified.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is handling the investigation of the incident, which has been classified as an officer-involved shooting of an armed civilian. The results of the investigation are to be handed over to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office for a determination on the final disposition of the case.
Efforts to obtain from the sheriff’s department information on how far the investigation has proceeded elicited no usable information, including whether there is any blood residue on the knife consistent with a recent fatal stabbing, whether a transcription of the audio recording of the 9-1-1 call has been obtained, and whether investigators have yet had a chance to view any video of the shooting itself.
Chino police officers are outfitted with body cameras, and it is believed that there are multiple video cameras in the area proximate to police headquarters.
Three Colonies Prosecution Lawsuits To Proceed To Trial At Least Partially Intact
By Mark Gutglueck
Rancho Cucamonga Developer Jeff Burum will be able to proceed to trial with most of his federal lawsuit against San Bernardino County alleging malicious and prejudicial prosecution, the falsification of evidence and retaliation remaining intact, U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal ruled on July 28.
Burum, along with former County Supervisors Bill Postmus and Paul Biane, former Postmus business associate Dino DeFazio, former San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies’ union president/one-time Assistant San Bernardino County Assessor Jim Erwin, and Mark Kirk, who was the chief of staff to former San Bernardino County Supervisor Gary Ovitt, were all prosecuted for what the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and the California State Attorney General’s Office alleged was graft-ridden activity related to the $102 million payment the county made in November 2006 to settle a lawsuit the Colonies Partners in 2002 launched against the county and its flood control district relating to drainage issues at the Colonies Partners development consortium’s Colonies at San Antonio residential and Colonies Crossroads commercial subdivisions in the northeast portion of Upland. Ultimately, only Postmus was convicted of those charges, which included bribery, misappropriation of public funds, conspiracy, public employee conflict of interest, fraud and perjury.
Burum and Dan Richards are managing principals in the Colonies Partners, which beginning in 1997 undertook to develop residential and commercial projects on 467 acres of properly once-owned and utilized by the San Antonio Water Company that had historically been utilized for flood control and water settling, and which was deemed undevelopable and zoned as open space. The property was also subject to four flood control easements held by the San Bernardino County Flood Control district that had been recorded in 1933, 1934, 1939 and 1962. Upon the county proving less than cooperative with regard to having its flood control division facilitate the development of the property, the Colonies Partners in 2002 sued the county to force county accommodations in the construction of a flood basin on the property that would allow for the project to proceed.
Burum at that point had already cultivated a reputation for being very aggressive in his drive to pursue development projects, as had Richards. Burum’s and Richard’s developmental formula included making hefty political donations to officeholders, in particular ones who would later be called upon to vote to approve, or in some other fashion make decisions regarding, their projects. Among a certain element of the public, it was perceived that the duo had a significant number of politicians in their pockets. In 2002, Burum, Richards and the Colonies Partners were heavily involved in backing then-Rancho Cucamonga City Councilman Paul Biane in his electoral challenge of then-Second District Supervisor Jon Mikels. Richards and Burum perceived Mikels, whose Second District included Upland, as being hostile to the Colonies at San Antonio and the Colonies Crossroads projects because he believed that the Colonies Partners should defray the cost of building the flood control infrastructure that would be required for those projects to proceed. Mikels held that the county’s flood control division should not be saddled with the cost of providing that infrastructure so that the property could be developed and thereby allow the developers to achieve a profit at public expense. Burum, Richards and the Colonies Partners provided Biane’s campaign with $70,000, and further made provision of attack ads against Mikels, which contributed to Biane ousting Mikels in the November 2002 election. Two years later, Burum, Richards and the Colonies Partners were major supporters of Ontario Mayor Gary Ovitt in his successful election effort for the Fourth District county supervisor’s post.
Relatively early on in the litigation, the Colonies Partners scored what seemed to be a significant victory when Judge Peter Norell ruled that the flood control easements had been abandoned, meaning, in essence, that those easements restricting the use of the property were no longer binding because they had fallen into disuse. The county, however, appealed that ruling, which resulted in the 4th District Court of Appeal reversing Norell, stating that the flood control easements remained intact. In 2006, the case went to trial, at which point the matter had been transferred from Norell’s courtroom to that of Judge Christopher Warner. Warner heard the matter as a bench trial, meaning that no jury was involved, and he was entrusted to render a verdict. Warner ruled in favor of the Colonies Partners, with one of his key findings being that the easements had been extinguished, meaning essentially that the county had overused them. Though Warner had delivered his verdict in favor of the Colonies Partners, he had yet to make a determination of damages in the case. The county appealed Warner’s verdict on multiple grounds, again to the 4th District Court of Appeal. The county had a relatively high degree of confidence in the appeal, particularly in that Warner’s finding that the county had overused the flood control easements on the property was central to his verdict and that previously Warner’s bench colleague, Norell, had made a 180 degree contradictory finding that the county had not overused the easements but had underused them.
Meanwhile, Burum, in particular, had grown impatient with the litigative process and its seemingly interminable series of appeals. He importuned Biane and Ovitt as well as Postmus, whom he had more recently befriended and to whose electioneering fund he, Richards and the Colonies Partners had shown generosity in financially supporting, to use their authority to persuade the county’s stable of attorneys, known as the office of county counsel, to settle the lawsuit on terms favorable to the Colonies Partners. When that had no immediate impact, Burum, Richards and the Colonies Partners engaged the services of political movers and shakers they considered to be influential to assist them in their efforts to settle the lawsuit and allow their development projects to proceed. Those included Jim Brulte, the former Republican leader in the California Senate; Jim Erwin, the former president of the Safety Employees Benefit Association, the collective bargaining unit for San Bernardino County’s sheriff’s deputies; and Patrick O’Reilly, a public relations firm owner whose clients included the County of San Bernardino. After Warner rendered his verdict in the lawsuit, Burum’s and Richards’ assumption was that the board of supervisors would move to settle the matter prior to Warner rendering his determination with regard to monetary damages. When instead the board of supervisors collectively signed off on appealing Warner’s ruling to the 4th District Court of Appeal, Burum grew irate, concluding that the application of hundreds of thousands of dollars in honey he, Richards and their company had applied was doing no good, and he resolved instead to instead saturate Postmus and Biane, at the very least, in a heavy dose of vinegar. At that point, Postmus was involved in an electoral effort to move into the position of county assessor, the county’s highest taxing authority, which would augment the considerable political reach he had already attained as the chairman of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee. Being able to adjust the tax assessments on the real estate of the county’s wealthiest landowners and the taxable amounts to be assessed on the assets, machinery, buildings, foundries, factories and facilities of the county’s businesses would give him further leverage in wringing from them political donations he could use to promote his political ambition, Postmus figured, which at that time extended potentially to the California Assembly, the California Senate, Congress and perhaps even California’s governorship. But pointedly, Burum made clear to Postmus, neither he, Richards nor the Colonies Partners would be supporting him in his run for assessor until the lawsuit was settled. That same year, Biane, against whom no opponent for his Second District supervisor’s seat had emerged, was sponsoring Measure P, which called for the supervisors’ $99,000 in salary per year and the $45,000 in benefits they were provided with being increased to $151,000 in salary and roughly $68,000 in benefits annually. Burum emerged as the major supporter of the campaign against Measure P.
Three weeks after the November election, in which Postmus was elected assessor and Measure P passed, the board of supervisors in a 3-to-2 vote, with Postmus, Biane and Ovitt prevailing and supervisors Dennis Hansberger and Josie Gonzales dissenting, voted to settle the lawsuit the Colonies Partners had brought against the county for $102 million and an agreement to build the flood control basin on the Colonies Partners northeast Upland property. That vote was one of Postmus’s last official acts in the role of supervisor. Following the settlement, between March 2007 and the end of June 2007, Postmus, Erwin and Gary Ovitt’s chief of staff, Mark Kirk, all established political action committees. In that same time frame, Burum and his brother Phil, cut a $100,000 check from the Colones Partners’ account to the newly-created political action committees set up by Erwin, the Committee for Effective Government; another to the political action committee set up by Kirk, the Alliance for Ethical Government; wrote two separate $50,000 checks to the political action committees established by Postmus, the Conservatives for a Republican Majority and the Inland Empire PAC; and provided another $100,000 check to a previously existing political action committee that had been set up by Biane’s chief of staff, Matt Brown, and over which both Biane and Brown had control, the San Bernardino County Young Republicans.
Among those who knew of Burum’s donation of $200,000 to the political action committees controlled by Postmus and Biane and the $100,000 that went to the political action committee of Ovitt’s chief of staff, there was a widespread perception that the money Burum and the Colonies Partners were handing around constituted kickbacks, bribe money paid out to reward the three supervisors who had supported the $102 million settlement. There were, however, no arrests made in the immediate aftermath of the donations having been made or received.
In 2008, after reports that Postmus was allowing the assessor’s office, its facilities, equipment and personnel to be utilized for partisan campaign activity relating to that year’s primary and general elections, the district attorney’s office initiated inquiries into the function of the assessor’s office, which was accompanied by a grand jury probe. Ultimately, those investigations uncovered improprieties and misappropriations involving Postmus and then-24-year-old Adam Aleman, whom Postmus had hired to serve as assistant assessor when he was 23. Under questioning by district attorney’s office investigators, Aleman ranged onto topics beyond those involving the assessor’s office. He related that in 2006, while he was working as a field representative in Postmus’s supervisor’s office, he had been aware that his boss, Postmus, as well as Biane were under severe pressure to settle the Colonies Partners litigation on terms favorable to the Colonies Partners. That pressure, Aleman stated, included blackmail attempts formulated by Burum, Erwin and O’Reilly. Aleman described the blackmail as involving the creation and then ultimately the withholding of political mailers and handbills that portrayed Postmus and Biane, who were then, respectively, the chairman and vice chairman of both the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and the San Bernrdino County Republican Central Committee, in highly negative light. The mailers, which corresponded with Postmus’s campaign for assessor and the campaign for the Biane-sponsored Measure P, according to Aleman, were exposés of Postmus’s homosexuality and addiction to methamphetamine and Biane’s state of financial insolvency that had him on the brink of bankruptcy. In this way, according to Aleman, Burum, with the assistance of Erwin and O’Reilly, had extorted Postmus and Biane into supporting the $102 million settlement. Aleman further spelled out the connection between the settlement and the $400,000 in donations to the political action committees controlled by Postmus, Biane, Erwin and Kirk in the spring and early summer of 2007. The $100,000 payment to Biane’s political action committee, which had been set up by Biane’s chief of staff Matt Brown, and the two separate $50,000 donations to Postmus’s two political action committees were direct payoffs, Aleman said. The $100,000 donation to the political action committee controlled by Mark Kirk, Ovitt’s chief of staff, was an indirect payoff, one that rewarded Kirk for influencing Ovitt to support the settlement, Aleman related. The $100,000 donation to Erwin’s political action committee, Aleman said, was intended as payment to Erwin for having assisted Burum in persuading Postmus and Biane to settle the lawsuit.
During their investigation into what Aleman said, the district attorney’s office investigators learned that all of the political action committees Aleman spoke of existed and had received the donations in the amounts Aleman had specified.
In the case of Biane’s political action committee, Biane’s chief of staff, Matt Brown, and one of his field representatives and later district director, Tim Johnson, were identified as board members, which the investigators concluded was part of an attempt to hide Biane’s involvement in the committee.
Kirk had also sought to insulate himself from being directly implicated in the reception of funds into and expenditure of funds out of his political action committee by delegating the structuring of the political action committee to Patrick Riley, a friend and political operative. Riley, in turn, installed his mother, Kathleen Rough, and 77-year-old Lorene “Kitty” Stennett, respectively, as the vice chairwoman and the chairwoman of the political action committee, without telling them of their status or duties. He also designated then-Chino Hills Mayor Curt Hagman as an Alliance For Ethical Government officer, apparently with Hagman’s consent. Riley listed four others – Andre Kuhr, Jeff Sorenson, Tim Neel and Charlie Dane – as officers of the political action committee on the Alliance For Ethical Government’s organization page. There is no evidence that Kurh, Sorenson, Neel or Dane actually existed. Riley then made indications that regular meetings of the PAC’s board were taking place, though those meetings were never actually held, and no minutes for them were recorded. Riley used these non-existent meetings as the basis for directions to make disbursements from the Alliance For Ethical Government’s fund account, forging Stennett’s signature and that of his mother on the authorizations for those disbursements, which included two separate $10,000 fees paid to Kirk for his services as a consultant to the committee.
Postmus had similarly created, with the assistance of Aleman and his political and business associate Dino DeFazio, two political action committees, the Conservatives for a Republican Majority and Inland Empire PAC, such that his involvement with them and his actual control of them was obscured. After Aleman told investigators that Postmus was the actual operator of the political action committees, that he had created an email address for Postmus to control expenditures of the Inland Empire PAC, and that he used the email to direct expenditures on behalf of Postmus, those investigators confronted DeFazio, who was represented as the committee’s principal. On October 22, 2009, when DeFazio testified before a grand jury, he claimed that he, Mike Richman, Mike Gallagher and Jeff Bentow had exclusive control of the Inland Empire PAC. Subsequently, district attorney’s office investigators caught up with Gallagher and Bentow. Gallagher, a wealthy developer, said he was unaware he was an officer with the committee, and his only interaction with DeFazio related to the Inland Empire PAC was discussion about monetary donations he was going to make to it. Bentow gave a nearly identical version of his experience with DeFazio relating to the political action committee, saying he had no idea he was an officer of the Inland Empire PAC, and that he had merely spoken with DeFazio about making a contribution to the committee. In November 2009, Richman told district attorney’s office investigators that Postmus and Aleman recruited him to serves as the executive director of the Inland Empire PAC with the understanding that Postmus would secretly control the political action committee.
Joining with then-California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr, District Attorney Mike Ramos filed criminal charges against Postmus and Erwin on February 9, 2010, alleging the two $50,000 payments to Postmus’ political action committees were bribes in return for his vote to approve the $102 million settlement, and that the $100,000 paid to Erwin’s political action committee was provided to him as payment for his illegal action in inducing both Postmus and Biane to support the $102 million settlement. Working on behalf of the Colonies Partners, according to the prosecutors, Erwin put together political mailers depicting Postmus as a drug addict and homosexual and then withheld them in order to blackmail him into voting for the settlement, and Erwin also created another set of mailers exposing Biane as teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and incapable of managing his own financial affairs, such that he was miscast in the role of a member of the board of supervisors overseeing the county’s multi-billion dollar annual budget.
The complaint alleged the November 2006 votes to approve the $102 million settlement were obtained as part of a broad conspiracy that involved five other uncharged and unnamed conspirators. The identities of the five could be surmised from descriptions of their capacities and their actions, those being Biane, Richards, Burum, Kirk and Patrick O’Reilly.
Both Postmus and Erwin pleaded not guilty to the charges.
On February 24, 2010, the district attorney’s office filed a criminal complaint against DeFazio, alleging two counts of perjury.
Thirteen months later, in March 2011, Postmus, who was also facing charges stemming from his abuse of authority while serving in the capacity of assessor, pleaded guilty to fourteen felony political corruption charges which included bribery, misappropriation of public funds, criminal conspiracy, public office conflict of interest, and perjury, along with a single count of misdemeanor drug possession. He agreed to turn state’s evidence and testify against all of the others involved, and cooperate with the investigation of the matter and the prosecution. Postmus was the star witness before the grand jury that was impaneled and heard testimony in April 2011.
Adam Aleman, who in 2008 had been charged criminally with regard to misappropriation and other illegal activity in the assessor’s office, pleaded guilty to four felonies. He, too testified before the grand jury in 2011, as did Greg Eyler, another of Postmus’s political associates.
In May 2011, the grand jury returned a 29-count indictment prepared by the California Attorney General’s Office and the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, superseding the charges that had been filed against Erwin the prior year. In addition to Erwin, the indictment further named Biane, Burum and Kirk, describing the overt acts in which they were allegedly involved. Neither Richards nor O’Reilly, who had been unnamed but identifiable as the uncharged co-conspirators in the criminal complaint filed against Postmus and Eriwn the previous year, were not indicted.
There was difficulty with the indictment from the outset in that nearly four years had elapsed since the last of the acts alleged in it, and more than four years had passed since some of the alleged offenses, such that some of the charges used less than straightforward language, indeed tortuous wording, in an effort to get around the statute of limitations.
The prosecution also pursued a somewhat elliptical charging theory, alleging that the statute had not begun to run until investigators for the district attorney’s office learned of the extortion and bribery scheme from Aleman during an interview/interrogation of him in November 2008.
The charges listed in the indictment included conspiracy to commit a crime, misappropriation of public funds, aiding and abetting a public official in receiving a bribe to influence a vote, receiving and agreeing to receive a bribe to influence a vote, public official conflict of interest, tax fraud, tax evasion, perjury and forgery.
Over the next five-and-a-half years there was vigorous pretrial sparring between the prosecution and defense attorneys for all four of the defendants, with the heavy lifting being done by Burum’s lead attorney, former Federal Court Judge Stephen Larson. Motions to dismiss the case entirely or to dismiss specific charges were made, some of which were granted and some of which were rejected by Superior Court Judge Brian McCarville. McCarville’s rulings were appealed to California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal, which reinstated some of the charges that McCarville had thrown out and dismissed some of the charges that McCarville had let stand. There were further delays while those rulings were appealed to the California Supreme Court.
In December 2016, jury selection for the case was undertaken and completed, and the case went to trial before Judge Michael A. Smith in January 2017. Two juries had been impaneled, one to hear the case against Burum, Biane and Kirk, and the other to determine Erwin’s fate. That bifurcation took place so that evidence inadmissible against Burum, Biane and Kirk but admissible against Erwin, which included his statements to investigators as a search warrant was being served at his home in 2009, could be considered by Erwin’s jury but could also be kept from the jury hearing the case against the other three.
The prosecution was handled in the main by Supervising Deputy California Attorney General Melissa Mandel and Supervising San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney Richard Lewis Cope, who were augmented by deputy district attorneys Michael Abney and Carlo DiCesare. Guiding the defense as the main strategist for all four of the defendants was Burum’s lead attorney, Stephen Larson. Also representing Burum were Jennifer Keller, Jonathan Phillips and Steven Haskins. Representing Biane was Mark McDonald. Representing Erwin was Raj Maline. Representing Kirk was Peter Scalisi.
A total of 39 witnesses, all of them called by the prosecution, were heard from in the course of the trial, in some cases for days on end. Matt Brown, Biane’s chief of staff who had offered testimony that had been damning to Biane before the grand jury in 2011 and who at one point had utilized a hidden recording device to record dozens of conversations with Biane in 2009 and 2010, proved uncooperative when he was called upon to testify at the trail.
Both Postmus and Aleman provided key testimony that undergirded the charges against the four defendants, supporting the accusation that Burum and Erwin had teamed up to blackmail Postmus and Biane to extort them into voting for the settlement. Aleman maintained that the $100,000 that Postmus and Biane each received in donations to their political action committees were rewards/kickbacks for that support. Postmus in his testimony acknowledged that the two $50,000 checks he had received had come to him as a consequence of his vote to support the settlement, but stopped short of acknowledging the $100,000 being a bribe, per se.
The defense, primarily during Jennifer Keller’s cross examination of Postmus, obtained from him an in-depth acknowledgment of his drug addiction in the 2005 through 2009 time period and that he was in the throes of the same when he was grilled prior to the 2011 indictment by two of the district attorney’s office investigators, Robert Schreiber and Hollis Randles. Under the suggestive questioning by Keller, Postmus undercut much of what he had testified to on direct examination by stating he believed that the investigators put words into his mouth or filled in details when he had lapses in memory. He then testified that he began to believe those details. Postmus stated that one of those false beliefs was that he had a deal with Burum ahead of the vote to exchange support of the settlement for the $100,000 his political action committees subsequently received from the developer.
Keller thereby inculcated doubt in the jury with regard to the accuracy of Postmus’s recollections. Defense attorneys for all four defendants made a full court press in seeking to attack the character and credibility of Aleman, which in some measure shredded the heart of the case, as Aleman’s testimony was a central, and perhaps even the most powerful, element of the prosecution’s narrative.
Ultimately, after testimony from prosecution witnesses that lasted until August 2017 and the decision by all of the defense attorneys to not put their respective clients on the stand nor call any defense witnesses, the defense conceded in its closing arguments that efforts to influence the county’s decision-makers with regard to the Colonies Partners’ development projects and settling the ongoing litigation had taken place, but it was strongly asserted that such activity was permissible and constitutionally protected. The defense insisted that the more lurid details of the case, including allegations of extortion and bribery, were outright fabrications that formed the basis of a falsified narrative the prosecution was attempting to sell to the jury.
In relatively short order, the jury hearing the case against Burum, Biane and Kirk returned not guilty verdicts on all the remaining charges against those three. The deliberations in Erwin’s case were a bit more protracted. After multiple days of deliberations, Erwin’s jury was unable to reach a verdict on any of the charges. Thereafter, the prosecution elected to dismiss the charges against Erwin. Ultimately, prosecutors dismissed the perjury charges that had been brought against DeFazio as well. After the acquittals and Erwin’s dismissal, each of the five former defendants filed claims against the county alleging reckless and malicious prosecution, as did the Colonies Partners itself as a separate entity.
Starting in March, 2018, a series of federal lawsuits were then filed against the county by the defendants and the Colonies Partners, which consisted of one by the Colonies Partners alleging $80 million in damages, another by Burum seeking $50 million in damages, one by Erwin seeking to recover $25 million, one by Kirk seeking $40 million and another by Biane seeking $10 million. Likewise, DeFazio filed suit over his legal ordeal.
The suits alleged malicious prosecution, false arrest/imprisonment, fabrication of evidence, fabricated testimony, withholding of evidence, a tainted indictment, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, retaliation, political retribution, irresponsible investigation, conspiracy, breach of contract, intimidation, harassment and civil rights violations. Those originally named as defendants were the County of San Bernardino; former District Attorney Michael Ramos, former Assistant District Attorney James Hackleman, district attorney’s office investigators Hollis Randles and Robert Schreiber, Supervising Deputy District Attorney R. Lewis Cope, California Supervising Deputy Attorney General Melissa Mandel and Senior Assistant California Attorney General Gary Schons.
The Colonies Partners and Burum are represented by Larson; Erwin is represented by Raj Maline, who served as his defense attorney during the criminal trial; Kirk is represented by Peter Scalisi, who served as his defense attorney at trial. Biane, who was represented in the criminal matter by Mark McDonald, is represented in his federal civil suit by Dale Galipo.
The County of San Bernardino and the county defendants are represented by the law firm of Burke, Williams and Sorensen, with that firm’s Charles Slyngstad, serving as the lead defense attorney.
Mandel and Schons were previously dismissed as defendants.
All of the cases were scheduled to be heard by Federal Judge Jesus Bernal in the U.S. District Court in Riverside. The cases were consolidated, with the suit brought by the Colonies Partners as the “lead case,” because, according to Bernal, the “facts and claims alleged in [the] Colonies [case] are nearly identical to those in” the other cases.
On January 27, 2020, the County of San Bernardino, Hackleman, Ramos, Cope, Schreiber, and Randles filed motions for summary judgment on the cases, seeking to have them dismissed in their entirety.
Bernal granted Cope’s motion to be dismissed as a defendant from all of the cases. He further threw out, in their entirety, the cases brought by Erwin and DeFazio. Additionally he granted the dismissal of all of the elements of the suits brought by Biane and Kirk with the exception of their allegations relating to false and fabricated evidence having been utilized in the prosecution against them.
“Kirk and Biane do not provide more than a scintilla of evidence defendants were substantially motivated by animus against them,” Bernal wrote in his ruling. “The court also concludes they fail to state a claim that defendants conspired to
retaliate against them. The court is mindful that Kirk and Biane’s false and fabricated evidence claims survive for now. But it is far from evident the two can state a malicious prosecution claim on that basis alone, or that such a novel formulation of their claim would be within the scope of their operative complaints: for example, malicious prosecution with the purpose of violating Fourteenth Amendment due process rights.”
Bernal wrote of the conspiracy claims brought by Kirk, Biane, Erwin, and DeFazio, “These plaintiffs have not demonstrated the investigation was substantially motivated by retaliatory animus against them and thus, no conspiracy to retaliate could have existed.”
That was not the case with regard to Burum or Burum’s company, however, according to Judge Bernal. In his ruling, Judge Bernal left, with the exception of the claims against Cope, virtually all of the cases brought by the Colonies Partners and Burum intact.
Significant to Bernal’s ruling were several communications involving Ramos and Hackleman, all of which both of those men had assumed were secure and confidential, which were leaked to Larson’s legal team. The identity of the individual who had provided those communications is not publicly known, but appears to be someone close to Ramos, as the emails include ones to or from district attorney’s office employees using the office’s email system as well as emails to and from Ramos at the address he was using for his reelection committee. Those emails demonstrate a considerable animus toward Burum.
Ramos wrote, to his staff, for example, that “Burum is feeling cocky and is spreading his political power around.”
In those emails, district attorney’s office staff referred to Burum as “Dr. Evil.” One email stated that “Burum is . . . a dirty word.”
As the 2010 election season was approaching, Ramos made statements in his email communications that might suggest he considered the prosecution of Postmus and Burum with regard to the Colonies Partners lawsuit settlement potentially useful in his upcoming campaign for reelection. In 2009, after reports of Ramos’s womanizing and other improper behavior publicly surfaced, Ramos in emails directed his office’s public integrity unit to focus on filing a criminal complaint before the date candidates for countywide office could file to challenge him, expressed concern that a challenger for the office of district attorney might emerge from the “Burum camp,” and stated that the public integrity unit could be beefed up with more investigators or attorneys. Ramos, at one point without referencing any evidence to support his assertion, in an email to members of his office said they “may” need to keep an eye on “Burum & Co.”
because their next step “may be laundering campaign funds.”
Hackleman, in an August 13, 2010 email that was sent after Postmus was arrested on a drug possession charge, described Postmus as “the key to getting $102 million out of Burum’s pocket and back into the public treasury.”
In December 2010, Hackleman emailed Ramos and other members of the district attorney’s office, stating his belief that “we will need at least every pressure we can bring to bear on [Postmus] if we ever have any hopes of seeing him turn.”
On February 8, 2011, Hackleman wrote in an email regarding the decision to include in the next day’s criminal filing against Postmus and Erwin descriptions of Burum, Richards, Biane, Kirk and O’Reilly as unidentified, unnamed and uncharged co-conspirators that he was “emotionally excited about going after these bastards,” but remained “short of being confident” due to a lack of significant evidence beyond the statements that had been provided by Aleman.
In one email, Hackleman indicated the district attorney’s office’s goal was to “absolutely ruin Burum as a political operator.”
After the lawsuits were filed, Ramos purged his email account and allowed his campaign emails located at firstname.lastname@example.org to be destroyed. He also erased all of the text messages from his phone, which Larson in a motion to the court referred to as evidence “spoilation.” Judge Bernal agreed, and he sanctioned the county in April for the destruction of evidence.
In his July 28 ruling, Judge Bernal stopped short of fully accepting as true Larson’s allegation that the prosecution and its investigators engaged in the fabrication of evidence against Burum and the others. Judge Bernal did hold, however, that there remains “a triable issue on whether false or fabricated evidence from the February and March 2011 Postmus interviews influenced the decision to pursue an indictment against Burum.”
Judge Bernal further stated, “A reasonable juror could conclude that individual defendants at the PIU [public integrity unit] and DA’s office acted pursuant to ‘a longstanding practice or custom’ of retaliating against Burum or Colonies for protected speech activity.”
“Colonies and Mr. Burum are grateful that Judge Bernal denied San Bernardino County’s latest attempt to sidestep responsibility for its corrupt acts, and the unconscionable action of DA Mike Ramos,” Larson said. “The county spent 20 years waging a vendetta against Mr. Burum and his company, culminating in their shameless violation of his civil rights by pursuing a politically-motivated criminal case to deny him his freedom – a case that a jury deemed to be utterly baseless.”
Larson, while characterizing Bernal’s ruling as a significant victory for Burum and the Colonies Partners, said the county and the remaining defendants are running a severe risk of embarrassing themselves further when the matter goes to trial and costing the county’s taxpayers more money. “Instead of doing the right thing, the county continues to stubbornly expose their taxpayers to hundreds of millions in liability in its vain effort to justify the indefensible and vengeful acts of former DA Ramos and other county officials,” Larson said. “We look forward to questioning Mr. Ramos, other county leaders, and prosecutors in a public trial where their spiteful motivations and wrongdoing will be laid bare.”
Indeed, the plaintiffs have in their legal quiver certain ammunition, such as the emails, providing them with a potential advantage. Nevertheless, the defense has advantages of its own that it will seek to bring to bear if the matter goes before a jury. During the 2017 criminal trial, all four of the defendants asserted their Fifth Amendment rights against testifying. In the civil case, however, the defense will be able to call all four of the one-time defendants now-turned-plaintiffs to the witness stand and question them in exhaustive detail with regard to the issues that led up to the criminal charges filed against them, including activity before the settlement, the settlement itself, the provision of the separate $100,000 in donations to the political action committees controlled by two of the three supervisors whose vote in favor of the settlement was crucial to its passage and the $100,000 to the political action committee of the chief of staff of the third supervisor who voted to confer upon the Colonies Partners the $102 million settlement. Fair game in that questioning will be the elaborate means – the outright falsification – used to obscure who actually controlled those political action committees. Unless Larson can find some legal grounds to prevent it from occurring, those plaintiffs will very likely be asked to explain why each of those $100,000 donations should not be interpreted as a quid pro quo – a kickback – for the approval of the $102 million settlement.
Trial is currently scheduled to begin on September 29, 2020. There are indications, however, that both Erwin and DeFazio intend to appeal the dismissal of their cases to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, and that Kirk and Biane will appeal as well with regard to the dismissal of the overriding number of elements in their case. As such, the cases are likely to be tied up in the appeal process for 12-to-14 months.
Treasurer’s Office: The Abandoned Stepchild Of Upland Municipal Government
By Journalisto Mysterioso
Upland is a general law city. Government Code Section 36501 authorizes general law cities to be governed by a city council of five members, a city clerk, a city treasurer, a police chief, a fire chief and any subordinate officers or employees as deemed appropriate.
In 1949 the function, duties responsibilities and authority of a city treasurer were codified by the California Legislature passing into law Government Code Sections 41001 to 41007.
Under Section 41002 the city treasurer is required to “receive and safely keep all money coming into his hands as treasurer.”
Section 41003 requires that the treasurer must “comply with all laws governing the deposit and securing of public funds and the handling of trust funds in his possession.”
Under California Government Code Section 41004, the treasurer is restricted from paying out a municipality’s money to any entity other than those for warrants “signed by legally designated persons.”
Government Code Section 41005 mandates that “Regularly, at least once each month, the city treasurer shall submit to the city clerk a written report and accounting of all receipts, disbursements and fund balances” and that “He shall file a copy with the legislative body.”
Government Code Section 41006 specifies that a treasurer is to “perform such duties relative to the collection of city taxes and license fees.”
California Government Code Section 41007 states that “The city treasurer may appoint deputies for whose acts he and his bondsmen are responsible” for and that “The deputies shall hold office at the pleasure of the city treasurer and receive such compensation as is provided by the legislative body.”
It is clear from the contents and context of the California Government Code that a treasurer is intended and required to provide the city in which he serves with financial oversight, provide fiscal controls with regard to the city’s purchasing activities, carry out the necessary accounting function of government and protect the city’s treasury and the investment residents have made in their city in the form of the taxes they have paid.
In this way, the wisdom a trained financial professional can bring to bear in the role of elected treasurer is intended to benefit the city and its citizens. The quality and thoroughness of any given treasurer’s performance in his elected function comes down to the energy and intensity he is personally willing to devote to the task. Under the law, a treasurer could bring some effort to the task if he so chose, in so doing being a stern taskmaster to and exacting a check upon his city’s financial affairs. Going back more than a generation in Upland’s history, those who took on the mantle of city treasurer were accomplished and competent men in whom it was easy for the city’s residence to place their faith.
Bob Thrall was a pilot and board member of San Antonio Regional Hospital and the founding partner of the certified public accounting firm Thrall, Lavanty & Baseel. He was succeeded by Walt Reardon, a principal in the accounting firm of Mellon, Johnson & Reardon. Following Reardon was Dan Morgan, a Drucker School of Management graduate and former councilman with the City of El Monte. Though they were generally guided by the California Government Code, Thrall, Reardon and Morgan were not aggressive at all in asserting themselves as part of the governmental function in Upland. In Thrall’s case, he began in the position when Upland was a far more agrarian community, what was basically a citrus farm village. Only toward the end of his tenure did the development in earnest of Upland begin to take place. During Reardon’s tenure, heavy development in the city had begun and transformed it into less of an expanse of orange and lemon groves than into a so-called bedroom community, what had come to be regarded as “The City of Gracious Living.” By the time Morgan had become treasurer in 2008, the city was no longer a bedroom community but one that was intent on cultivating not citrus but commercial and industrial businesses that would generate tax revenue to allow City Hall to expand in keeping with the city’s population growth. Throughout this transition of Upland, Thrall, Reardon and Morgan – straight shooters, all – were content to largely entrust the city’s financial affairs to city management and the city manager’s designees in the finance department. At no time did they seek to test the envelope of their authority as Upland treasurers. They were content to allow the city treasurer’s role to remain a primarily ceremonial one. They did not use their authority under California’s law to appoint deputies, nor did they insist on going over city finances with a fine tooth comb. They would simply sign the monthly treasurer’s reports prepared by city staff. They deferred to the city manager and the city council what the best way was for the taxpayers’ money to be spent, collecting their $200 per month stipend and choosing not to make life difficult for anyone at City Hall. Such was deemed appropriate and pertinent, as the safeguards in the California Government Code seemed superfluous and plainly unnecessary in a city the size and character of Upland. At no time was funding approved and provided by the city council for the operation of the treasurer’s office.
It was during Morgan’s tenure as city treasurer that the public corruption scandal centered around Upland Mayor John Pomierski erupted.
In 2016, when Morgan opted out of seeking reelection as treasurer to instead run for city council, Larry Kinley, a retired vice president with the Bank of America, one whose function entailed overseeing for fifteen years the bank’s problem loan division, ran for treasurer. Also competing for the seat was Stephen Dunn, Upland’s former city manager, who had previously served as the city’s finance director.
Kinley handily won the 2016 election for treasurer, capturing 16,625 votes or 62.46 percent to Dunn’s 9,992 votes or 37.54 percent. Kinley’s performance in that election made him the top vote-getter among all of the city’s elected officials, including the council members and the mayor.
There was reason to believe that Kinley’s victory was a reflection of the Upland citizenry’s recognition of the seriousness of the city’s financial position, which was threatened by the growing pension debt it had accumulated as a consequence of Pomierski’s commitments to city employees in terms of increased salaries and benefits. Pomierski used his position of power to show this generosity toward the city’s employees to make sure that everyone at City Hall looked the other way while he was engaged in his violations of the public trust.
Kinley interpreted the mandate he was given by the voters as an indication that the public was anticipating that he would use the authority of the treasurer’s office to address the growing concerns about the city’s solvency.
There were multiple bases for the concern about Upland’s financial health. As early as 2012, an auditor’s opinion from the certified public accounting firm Mayer Hoffman and McCann stated that there were serious questions with regard to the city’s solvency to the point that in a short while “it will be unable to continue as a going concern.” In 2013, Standard and Poor’s Financial Services downgraded the City of Upland’s credit rating.
Heartened by his victory, Kinley somewhat confidently took office, assuming he was going to be provided with the accommodations and authority befitting the city’s elected treasurer, and would receive the benefit of cooperation and access to the information, data and personnel assigned to the city’s finance department. In running for the treasurer’s position, Kinley’s believed a treasurer would be given license to address any issues the city is involved in financially, and that the city would naturally accommodate him by assigning one of the city’s finance division employees to him as his on-site City Hall deputy to work with the city manager. Kinley naturally assumed that he would be given a free hand to ascertain the city’s financial position and develop his calculations on how the city could meet its financial challenges. He was reinforced in this belief when he first examined the city’s organizational chart, which showed the city treasurer as answerable only to the city’s taxpayers, such that among the remainder of city officials he was the peer of the city council and city manager and the top financial authority in the city. His assumption was that all of those individuals would be receptive to his advice.
What he learned very early was that though the city manager, the city’s finance division and the city’s accounting staff were supposed, indeed were mandated by law, to support the treasurer in his function, they did not.
Perhaps Kinley had gotten on the wrong side of the city manager, Martin Thouvenell, who had formerly been the city’s police chief, and who was the recipient of the second-highest annual pension – $170,000 – provided to the city’s several hundred retirees. Prior to Kinley being elected treasurer, the City of Upland’s overall pension debt was calculated at $87 million. During the more than three years he was in office, that debt has grown to an approximate figure of $122 million. The interest accumulating on the city’s pension debt is currently calculated at $7 million per year.
Later in Kinley’s term, a new city manager, Bill Manis, was put into place. Manis continued to block Kinley’s efforts to bring up the subject of the pension debt. Less than a year later, Manis was replaced with another city manager, Jeannette Vagnozzi. Vagnozzi, like Thouevenell and Manis before her, was not willing to allow Kinley to exercise his authority as treasurer under Government Code Section 41005 and Section 41007 to appoint deputies and report on the city’s financial situation as he saw fit.
Last year, Vagnozzi was replaced by another city manager. Her replacement, Rosemary Hoerning, balked when Kinley sought to include in the monthly treasurer’s report a running tally of the city’s pension debt. Kinley was no longer willing to accept responsibility for a report he did not generate and which failed, in his view, in a critical respect with regard to the full inclusion of data relevant to the city’s actual financial condition. When Kinley insisted that the pension debt calculation be included in the monthly report, stating that he would not sign the document in the future as he had done routinely in the past unless the information about the pension debt was included, Hoerning changed the title of the treasurer’s report to the treasury report and had it signed by the city’s senior financial officer instead.
Previous to Kinley’s term in office, the city had a finance committee which counted as its members two members of the city council, the city’s finance director and the treasurer. That committee met publicly every couple of months. After Kinley acceded to the treasurer’s position, the finance committee was dissolved. Thereafter, it has remained unclear how the city’s decision-making process with regard to financial issues is carried out, as the members of the city council now hold internal and informal meetings with the city manager to discuss the city’s fiscal picture, from which Kinley and all members of the public are excluded. The city’s current mayor, Debbie Stone, who was elected to the mayoral post for the first time in 2016 with 588 fewer votes for that position than Kinley received in his race for treasurer, never consented to meet with Kinley in the more than three years and seven months that they have held their respective offices. Neither the mayor nor any of the four city managers who have held that position while Kinley was treasurer were amenable to discussing the city’s financial circumstance with Kinley.
Kinley’s pension reform concerns ran dead on into the personal interests of Thouvenell, Manis, Vagnozzi and Hoerning, who did not want to see their lucrative pensions reduced. Upon their retirements, Manis and Hoerning will be eligible for annual pensions in excess of $200,000 per year for the remainder of their lives. Had Vagnozzi remained employed with the city until the end of her contract to serve as city manager, she too would have been eligible for a lifelong annual pension exceeding $200,000. Kinley was never permitted to advocate to the city council that it create separate pension plans for the city’s management and the rest of the city’s employees. He believed such an arrangement would allow management to be objective with regard to the ballooning pension crisis.
What Kinley was seeking was a treasurer’s division that would function in accordance with Government Code Sections 41001 through 41007, which would provide him with the ability to oversee the city’s accounting function and provide his input with regard to the city’s disbursements and financial planning. That never came to pass. The treasurer’s office in the sense provided for under Government Code Section 41007 allowing the treasurer to hire and maintain an independent treasurer’s staff has not been organizationally instituted nor funded beyond the treasurer’s $200 per month stipend.
Kinley, to remain as treasurer, must stand for reelection in November.
Convinced that Hoerning, who has a three-year contract to remain as city manager, will not supply him with the support and required data for him to function under Government Code Section 41001 through Section 41007 guidelines, Kinley is not going to seek reelection. Kinley has made a last gesture aimed at forcing an examination of the city’s books and its financial picture that in three years in office he was not allowed to do. He has approached higher officials, seeking not just guidance but direct intervention that will result in a public examination of the city’s deteriorating financial circumstance. Whether the authorities he has consulted will follow through with his request and, if so, on what timetable is unknown. Nor is it known who will step forward to run for treasurer in Upland at this point, whether that candidate or those candidates will have the credentials that Kinley possessed as a former vice president with Bank of America, whether the successful candidate will content himself with serving in a ceremonial treasurer’s role, and whether Hoerning, with the backing of the mayor and the council, will accord him the same treatment that Kinley endured if he does not.
What is known is that for the last generation right up to the present, Upland has been without the benefit of the treasurer’s oversight as is provided for in the California Government Code, and the treasurer’s office remains an Abandoned Stepchild of Upland’s Municipal Government.
Chester Running To Preserve Yucaipa’s Small Town Character
It is her intense feeling for her living environment that has inspired Stacey Chester to seek a position on the Yucaipa City Council in the upcoming November election.
“I am running for city council because I love the city,” Chester said. “Yucaipa is one of the few cities left in Southern California that maintains a rural heritage and a small town feel. It is the true definition of community. My daughter just graduated from Yucaipa High School and my son is going to be a sophomore. I have a vested interest on behalf of my children to make Yucaipa a great place to live.”
Chester said her professional involvement in government qualifies her to hold the position of city councilwoman.
“My 20 years’ experience in government working for the Riverside County Economic Development Agency has prepared me well to serve as councilwoman,” she said. “My extensive background in workforce development, business services, marketing, management and community events enables me to understand a variety of issues and gives me the ability to make well-informed decisions. I also have my bachelor’s degree in public relations, and my education will help me be a positive and confident voice for the city of Yucaipa.”
In 2016, Yucaipa transitioned to by-district elections from the at-large voting that had taken place in the city previously. Chester is a resident of Yucaipa’s District 4, for which Denise Allen-Hoyt is the current officeholder. Allen-Hoyt has not yet pulled papers to seek reelection. The single other hopeful who has taken out candidacy papers in District 4 is Justin Beaver, a former San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy who is now employed as a detective with the City of Azusa’s police department.
Chester says her greater depth with regard to the full range of municipal/governmental operations positively distinguishes her from Beaver.
“As far as I can tell, my opponent’s only professional job experience is law enforcement,” Chester said. “With that said, my experience and education will better serve our community because there is a distinct difference between law enforcement and governance. I understand government operations and will be better equipped. He also seems hyper-focused on adding more law-enforcement, whereas I would want to pull actual crime reports and statistics to ensure the added deputies are warranted. I am pro-law enforcement, but there are other issues that must be addressed. I would be a well-versed representative for our city.”
Additionally, Chester said, “I also volunteer my time as a board member for the Yucaipa Community Foundation, as a means to make the visual, performing, and cultural arts accessible to the entire community. My opponent works in the city of Azusa, I work in Cherry Valley, making me more accessible in times of need.”
Chester said, “Some of the major issues facing the City of Yucaipa right now are city image, economic growth, expansion and salvaging our small businesses.”
Those issues should be redressed, Chester said, by “maintaining positivity in these unprecedented times. It is important to listen to both sides of an issue, and make informed decisions based on facts, while leaving emotions out. Effective communication is essential when representing our city.”
In terms of economic growth and expansion, Chester said, “It is vital to forge a balance to maintain our small town feel and incorporate growth. With my understanding of economic development and its importance to city revenues, I believe we can balance the two. By filling our current buildings in our uptown area with small businesses that make sense, we will accomplish growth and maintain our rural heritage. Adding corporate businesses, which is already in the works at the base of Yucaipa Boulevard, will also give residents a place to spend their money and ‘play’ inside city limits while bringing surrounding residents to add to our local economy.”
Chester said the city should make an effort toward sustaining small businesses.
“I want to help small businesses weather this economic storm by informing them about various programs such as the CARES Act and other grants for small businesses,” Chester said, adding that such enterprises can be shored up by “encouraging locals to work and play in our city. Once we can fully reopen, I think it is imperative to get the Yucaipa Performing Arts Center back up and running to create tourism and cultivate partnerships with local businesses.”
Chester said tapping into available CARES Act grants will not impact the city’s budget. “We should also take advantage of our opportunity zone. This zone will allow investors to bring in new businesses. I noticed in the budget that the Performing Arts Center costs the city over $500,000 per year. There is a way to make this center a revenue generator versus a city expenditure. My experience operating a county venue will help, as I implemented a business plan that is proving to be successful.”
Chester moved to Yucaipa in 2007. She graduated from AB Miller High School in Fontana. She attended Cal Baptist University, receiving a bachelor of arts degree in public relations. She is currently employed with the County of Riverside.
“I manage a county property and have been in charge of sponsorships for a variety of county events that include the Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival, the Hemet-Ryan Air Show, the Jacqueline Cochran Air Show and French Valley Wine and Wings Air Show. In this capacity, I have raised over $7 million dollars in sponsorship revenues.”
An unmarried single mother since 2012, Chester said, “I have raised my two children, ages 18 and 14, on my own. I own my house and work hard for everything I have. Working two jobs, going back to school and being there for my kids showed them perseverance. It is important to me they understand nothing is free in this life. If you want something, you have to set goals, and be willing to put in the work.”
Chester said, “I will strive to be a positive voice for Yucaipians. I believe my drive and work ethic will serve my community well.”
Supervisors Override General Plan, With Big Bear Project Getting 32-Fold Density Increase
Supervisors on July 28 gave clearance for RCK Properties, Inc. to intensify the density on 62.43 acres on the north side of Big Bear Lake to more than 32 times what is permitted under the county’s general plan.
The property in question is in Fawnskin, overlooking the lake on what is known as the Moon Camp project site off of North Shore Drive, which at that point is the alternate name for State Route 38, approximately 180 feet east of Canyon Road.
RCK Properties asked for and the county board of supervisors granted a general plan land use designation amendment from the county’s Bear Valley/Rural Living – 40-acre minimum lot size standard that was created specifically for that extremely rustic area to its Bear Valley/Single Residential 20,000-square foot minimum lot size standard on the 62.43 acres in question. The revamping will allow RCK Properties to construct 50 residential lots with a minimum area of 20,000 square feet. The project is to include a 55-boat marina.
A forerunner of the project was first proposed 51 years ago, in 1969. That project concept called for density greater than what was approved this week, but was never able to garner approval. RCK Properties’ adaptation of the long-gestating plan was lopsidedly out of keeping with what has evolved as the officially accepted conception of how development is to take place in that area, if indeed it is to take place at all.
Of relevance is that for decades, California Department of Fish & Wildlife [formerly the Department of Fish & Game] and U.S. Forest Service biologists were greatly concerned about the dwindling numbers of bald eagles in the San Bernardino Mountains and elsewhere in Southern California. The U.S. Government declared the bald eagle an endangered species in 1967. To provide a baseline on the species’ ongoing population numbers and survival, the U.S. Forest Service in 1979 initiated counts of bald eagles on a weekly basis during December, January, February and early March in Big Bear Lake, Lake Arrowhead/Lake Gregory, Silverwood Lake, Lake Perris and Lake Hemet, all of which are areas where the birds of prey wintered. In recent years, the birds seemed to be making something of a comeback.
Since 2017, there has been considerable attention given to the only known pair of eagles nesting on the north side of Big Bear Lake. Those eagles, referred to as Jackie and Shadow by the scientists monitoring them through a video camera trained on their nest, cared for eggs laid by Jackie. As it turned out, however, the eggs laid and hatched in 2017 and 2018 did not survive, felled by winter storms that inundated the nest with ice cold water. This winter, the eggs in the nest failed to hatch.
The RCK Properties project, known by the traditional name of Moon Camp, is 0.85 miles from the Jackie’s and Shadow’s nest. Bird protectionists consider the boldness of RCK Properties’ project request and the county’s willingness to allow the land use there to be intensified to the point that 50 homes are to be built on land designated by the county’s own rules to be suited for just over one-and-a-half homes an indication that something is askew.
A giveaway, they said, is that for an undisclosed price, RCK purchased the services of biologist Tim Krantz, who is a professor at the University of Redlands and director of the Southern California Montane Botanic Garden at The Wildlands Conservancy’s Oak Glen Preserve, as an advocate on behalf of the development.
Krantz told the board that RCK Properties was “a project done right.” Krantz said he knew that he had “put all of my credibility on the line in saying that.”
“He sure did,” said one of the project’s opponents. “He’s sold his soul to the devil.”
The project opponents said that if RCK was able to buy Krantz, who had no vote on the project, it is likely that if has purchased influence with the board members, including Third District Supervisor Dawn Rowe, whose Third District includes Big Bear.
Protesters Met With Counterprotesters In Rallies For & Against Redlands Police Tactics
Redlands police officers acted unreasonably and prejudicially when they handcuffed Stanley Clairborne after a traffic stop on July 24, protesters affiliated with the Inland Empire Chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement sought to emphasize in a rally they held on July 28.
Clairborne was stopped, allegedly because his car had tinted windows and a broken brake light. A video of the incident posted to Facebook showed Redlands police officers pulling a black man, identified as Clairborne, out of his car and handcuffing him.
There was no need to treat Clairborne in that fashion, and it is a demonstration of racial profiling, the gratuitously provocative and the unnecessarily aggressive nature of the Redlands police force, which should be defunded, those protesters said. On Tuesday, they scheduled and held their rally at Ed Hales Park.
Another group, one hailing the police as fair-minded upholders of the law, scheduled a counterdemonstration to support the police that was held at the same time near the Redlands Police Station off Cajon Avenue. That prompted the Black Lives Matter protesters to march from Ed Hales Park to the police station. Black Lives Matter protesters said the counterprotesters had scheduled their counterprotest to stir up trouble and create a confrontation.
John Berry, who organized the counterprotest in favor of the police with Redlands City Councilman Paul Barich, said that was not true.
It was the Black Lives Matter protesters, whom Berry referred to as bullies, who were looking to pick a fight, he said.
That did not happen, as the police formed a barricade between the two groups when those marching reached Cajon Avenue.
Berry said the July 24 “traffic stop was a set-up to antagonize the police,” which he said was attested to by the way it was videotaped.
“A lot of what actually occurred is not shown on the video,” Barry said. “They created that video as a justification to defund the police.”
Barry bragged that the 300 or so counterprotesters who were there in favor of the police outnumbered the Black Lives Matter protesters “by about a hundred or so. Our goal was for nothing to happen,” he said, “and nothing did. No arrests. No vandalism. The bullies worked hard at provoking a fight. They worked hard at agitating the police. They were being vulgar and filthy.”
Berry characterized those in the Black Lives Matter crowd as “an anti-Christian, anti-family Marxist group seeking to overthrow the American government and the American way of life.”
Barry credited the Redlands police with doing “an excellent job of keeping them at bay and allowing us to express our appreciation for the police.”
Tejeda Says He Believes His Maturation In Office Merits Him Another 4-Year Term
Redlands Councilman Eddie Tejeda said the best reason he can give for the voters of District 2 to retain him on the Redlands City Council is his maturation while in office.
“When I began my city council term in 2016, I thought I knew what the job and responsibilities of a city council member entail,” Tejeda said. “However, I have learned that what I once believed was true is not close to the actual duties and responsibilities of a council member. Prior to this term, I did not have any government experience. I have learned a great deal about government and how it works during my time on the city council.”
Four years ago, Tejeda was elected in a nine-person race for two positions on the city council. Since that time, Redlands has dispensed with at-large elections and now elects its council members by district. Tejeda said, “My term expires in November and I am seeking election to serve as councilmember to represent District 2 on our city council.”
Tejeda said the dedication he has demonstrated over the last three-and-a-half years is something the voters of District 2 should consider in making their selection in November.
“On top of my job working with Rialto Unified, I work an average of 24 hours on my city council duties,” he said. “There are several meetings that must be attended by council members at the regional level to represent the city’s interest. Council members also serve as liaisons on local committees and commissions. Council members also make themselves available to constituents. These may seem like small jobs in the grand scheme of things. However, each job consumes time on an average work calendar and must be planned for.”
Tejeda said he is distinguished from his colleagues on the council, most city council members historically and the other candidates vying in this year’s election in that he holds office representing that section of the city which has traditionally gone unrepresented.
“In 2016, I was elected at-large and am the first city council member elected in an at-large election to live in the north side of town,” Tejeda said. “My campaign then was intended to provide Redlanders living on the north side a seat on the dais to represent them by communicating our issues, concerns and priorities regarding community development. My campaign priorities remain the same for this election.”
Indeed, the only other Redlands council member from the city’s north end over the last half century was Gilberto Gil. Gil was not elected in an at-large election but rather when Redlands in the 1990s was experimenting with by-district elections, which were subsequently discontinued until they were readopted two years ago.
Somewhat modestly, Tejeda referenced the electoral outcome in 2016, which enabled him to become someone who is shaping the community, as his major accomplishment, as that is what enabled him to stand by the commitments he had made when he ran for office.
“I believe my greatest accomplishment was being elected in 2016, which gave me the opportunity to accomplish the goal of representing the constituents of the north side of town and keep my campaign promises of maintaining our quality of life, supporting local small businesses, maintaining our public safety, and making improvements to our community facilities and infrastructure,” Tejeda said.
At present, Tejeda said, “The greatest issue facing the city is the reduction of revenue to our city budget due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on all our businesses. Our budget is impacted for this year, and if the economy remains slow, it will require the city council to make drastic cuts to services that will significantly and negatively impact our quality of life.”
Tejeda said, “If the economy does not improve, our budget next year will require the further reduction to city staff, fire and police included, the closure of some city facilities such as the community center or even our library. There are a few ways to address this issue. One way would be to estimate what our budget revenue would be for the next fiscal year and prepare a budget that reflects this. However, this will cause the greatest negative impact on essential city services such as fire and police. It would mean a reduction to staff in these departments, thereby putting our residents at the greatest risk of harm or loss of some kind.”
Accordingly, Tejeda made his pitch for city residents to pass the one percent transactions and use tax – in common parlance referred to as a sales tax – which is to be applied to the cost paid for goods and services in the city that will be on the ballot in November.
“The fairest solution, in my opinion, would be for our residents to pass the proposed measure for a 1 percent sales tax increase, which would prevent the previously mentioned budget scenario,” Tejeda said. “Passing the sales tax would also allow the city to add staff to the fire and police department, which have been temporarily unfunded, due to our current budget position.”
Tejeda has lived in Redlands for the last quarter of a century, since 1995. He attended and graduated from San Gorgonio High School in San Bernardino. Tejeda graduated from Cal-State San Bernardino, where he majored in education and from which he has also obtained a master’s degree in moderate to severe disability special education. He has parlayed that into a position as a special education teacher with the Rialto Unified School District.
Tejeda is remarried and has three children from his previous marriage.
Tejeda said, “I would like the Sentinel’s readers to know that I am very grateful for the time I have served on the city council. I recognize that I serve at the pleasure of the voters in my community and I am prepared to accept the outcome of the election, whether favorable to me or not.” He said, “I have worked to be as informative to my constituents as I possibly can without running afoul of any laws that hinder my ability to do so. I recognize that many voters are tired of partisan politics and am committed to working with my city council colleagues to focus on the betterment of our community. I strongly believe in term limits and will work to incorporate this within our municipal code.”
Honore Seeking Voters’ Mandate To Succeed Haughey In Representing Chino’s District 4
Anthony Honore said that he was inspired to seek election to the Chino City Council from “listening to the community chatter both positive and negative. I am passionate about helping my community keep that positive outlook in regards to our great city.”
Honore is resident of Chino’s District 4, in which Tom Haughey is the incumbent. As of today, Haughey has not yet pulled candidacy papers, and has given indication he likely will not run for reelection. If he does not file nomination papers by the August 7 deadline, the nomination period for District 4 will be extended to August 12. Another District 4 candidate who has pulled papers is former Police Chief Karen Comstock. There is indication that Comstock will not follow through with filing her nomination papers if Haughey in fact opts to seek reelection.
Honore appears to be purposed to seek the District 4 position no matter who else gets into the race.
He said he is confident he will be able to handle the demands of the position.
“I have spoken with the sitting council member,” Honore said. “He informed me of the day-to-day aspect that will take time to become familiar with and the certain subjects I will need to comprehend. I strongly believe that with my ability to learn quickly, along with my background in financial services, I will succeed in this position.”
Honore said, “I believe that the distinguishing factor between myself and any candidate is I have and will continue to reach out to everyone possible within my district. I have a passion for helping as well as listening, so I love going door-to-door and hearing out each one of my neighbors. It is always a pleasure speaking to the folks of the entire district, and I have many more neighbors to meet and I look forward to it.”
Chino’s problems are not acute ones, Honore said, but rather subtle and nuanced.
“I don’t believe there is one issue in particular that plagues the City of Chino,” he said. “As a resident within my district, I do see a few things that can be improved. Our city has been around since the early 1900s and it can most definitely use some improvements such as the updating of sidewalks and alleyways. I believe certain streets need to be fixed, so potholes don’t ruin the cars of the citizens and visitors. All of these are concerns that have come from the people I have already met with thus far.”
His formula for addressing the city’s needs, Honore said, is to achieve consensus and proceed in a deliberate and measured fashion.
“Well, as a council member, I would bring these issues to my colleagues and as a team we can tackle everything together,” Honore said. “I don’t act alone, as I am just one piece to the greater puzzle of the city council. Keeping the city running smoothly, I know, is the main focus of this great council, so these issues I’ve gathered from the community can be addressed and taken care of.”
Honore expressed confidence that the funding to effectuate the needed changes already exists and is earmarked to make such adjustments, but that money is not being utilized and needs to be tapped into by direction from the council with regard to specific efforts being mandated.
“Within every city’s budget, there are allotted funds for these types of projects,” Honore said. “Along with new and existing entities that pay taxes to do business within this great city, there will be enough funding to keep this community running at its best.”
Honore acknowledged that he is a political neophyte, but insisted that can be overcome by his continuing to demonstrate to those who will be his constituents that he merits their trust.
“As far as government experience, this is my first step into this realm,” he said. “I have always wanted to serve this amazing community, and now the opportunity has presented itself. This opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time and I am grateful for it. Due to the overwhelmingly positive feedback from the neighbors I have met and spoken with thus far, it has shown me that I have the support of my community.”
Honore noted he is Chinoan through and through. “I have lived in Chino since I was 8 years old, which is basically my whole life. I moved from our neighboring City of Ontario. I remember the good ol’ cow smell as a child. We still get that smell when it rains. Every City of Chino resident will share that with you in a heartbeat. I attended high school in Chino. I am a proud Conquistador! Don Antonio Lugo High School is where I attended. I still have a few amazing teachers I am in contact with, ones who saw my potential long before I did.”
His post high school education consisted of on-the-job training, Honore said.
“As far as college goes, I did not attend for my career path,” he said. “I was taught by my mentor, who took me under his wing and showed me the ropes in becoming a businessman.”
Honore is involved in independent contracting, which he described as “doing business with major insurance companies such as TransAmerica, Nationwide and over 150 other well-known companies. I am licensed through the state of California.”
Honore told the Sentinel, “I am currently not married. However I have been with my high school sweetheart for 12 beautiful years. We do not have children as of now, but we definitely want as many as God will allow us.”
Honore said, “I want every reader to know I am genuine in wanting to help better this city as a whole. I care for each person who stands in front of me, because every one of us is different. Each community member has individual needs and I feel that gets forgotten most times. I am here now to let the people know I understand. This city deserves great people in this leadership role, and all I want to do is show my community I can be that leader if given this chance.”
He Will End Victorville’s Mismanagement, Misappropriation & Misprioritization, Godina Vows
Valentin Godina said his motivation in running for a position on the Victorville City Council is “to make a long-lasting positive change in the city to give back to our community and residents. We need high paying jobs, we need to support the unhoused population, and we need to use our budget to make Victorville an even better place to live, work, and raise a family in.”
Victorville, Godina said, has been plagued with mismanagement.
“As a resident of 30 years living in Victorville, I have seen community resources such as our antiquated library squandered,” he said. “I will make sure budgeted items and other public services get the resources they deserve. The misappropriation of funds and the lack of transparency is the greatest issue that Victorville faces. Our other major issues, such as homelessness, the lack of job opportunities, and poor public services can be better addressed. Victorville is ready to step into the 21st Century and we need to invest in our communities.”
Godina said, “What distinguishes me against my opponents is I have actually lived through the problems of mismanagement of our city. I see the people of Victorville and hear their concerns. I have had countless conversations about the problems of long commutes to low paying jobs, concern for homeless people, and ever-rising taxes without improvements to key parts of our community.”
The city can overcome the major challenges it faces, Godina said, by “adjusting the budget to benefit the taxpaying citizens of Victorville and listening to the concerns that our residents have. We should spend less money on golf courses and more money on homeless outreach, libraries, and activities to keep our youth safe and engaged. We must make our budget reflect our values. When readjusting the city budget we must redirect funds to the community. In doing so, it will bring no upfront cost to the residents of Victorville.”
Godina said he is prepared to serve on the city council because “I understand the way the city council operates. I have been a frequent participant and successfully ran a nonprofit organization for 15 years. But my biggest qualification is my frequent outreach to everyday residents. Hearing their concerns, I’m ready to bring those to the Victorville City Council.”
Godina grew up in Los Angeles County, where he attended Mountain View High School in South El Monte. He has lived in Victorville for 30 years.
He attended Rio Hondo College in Whittier, where he majored in business and political science.
Godina was employed as a diesel mechanic. Now retired, he was during his years of employment a union leader.
He and his wife have six children of their own and have adopted or fostered six more. “We have a total of 10 grandchildren,” he told the Sentinel. “They have made me determined to make Victorville a better place to live, a destination of first resort, not a destination of last resort. All of my children went to Victorville schools, went to the military, and had to move to other areas in order to get living-wage jobs to survive. I want to create a place where the people and youth of Victorville have a safe place to live, learn, and work.”