By clicking on the blue portal below, you can download a PDF of the late final edition of the October 8 edition of the San Bernardino County Sentinel.
By Mark Gutglueck
Panicked paralysis has gripped Rialto City Manager Marcus Fuller and Rialto City Attorney Eric Vail, as they are dealing with a thorny issue involving their political masters and unsuccessful candidates for the city council going back nearly two decades.
Central to the matter are blackmail and election-swaying efforts by members of the fire and police departments who were seeking to gain leverage in contract negotiations with the city. It is further alleged that former high ranking city officials were knowledgeable of and perhaps even involved in the extortion and efforts to impact voting in Rialto’s municipal elections and votes made by the city council.
Fuller and Vail are furiously seeking to bring the matter to a quiet close before it breaks into a full-blown scandal. A public airing of the seamy details of what occurred, Fuller and Vail fear, would carry with it a substantial possibility that the city’s taxpayers will take an estimated $25 million to $30 million hit.
At the basis of the contretemps is that Rialto Councilman Ed Scott, who is currently the city’s mayor pro tem, has filed claims totaling $1.15 million against the city where intermittently over the last quarter of a century he has been a member of the city council for nearly 19 years, including the last seven.
According to one of those claims, Rialto police officers and & firefighters have accessed the State of California’s law enforcement database on multiple occasions to obtain confidential information which was used in an attempt to prevent his election and reelection to office as well as for political purposes in opposing the electoral or re-electoral efforts of other members of the city council.
Additional information gleaned by the Sentinel indicates that others competing for berths upon the Rialto City Council or the mayor’s position were similarly subjected to having their profiles and personal information contained in what is supposed to be a restricted governmental data base accessed and used for either political purposes or to dissuade them from engaging in public advocacy or taking certain official actions.
The allegations made by Scott came in one of the two claims for damages he filed with the city this year, and which exists in the form of a sworn statement together with a narrative submitted as an attachment to the claim lodged with the city.
In Rialto, as is the case with all other cities or governmental entities in California, an individual who has suffered damages as a consequence of the action or negligence of the city or governmental entity or its employees must lodge a claim with that entity before initiating legal action against it. The governing board of the jurisdiction, as in the case of a city its city council, can then acknowledge the claim as valid and pay either the claimed amount of damages or a negotiated amount to settle the claim and avoid a lawsuit. Once a claim is rejected, the claimant has six months to file a lawsuit against the city. In the vast majority of cases, claims against cities are rejected, and in the vast majority of the cases where rejections are made, the claimants do not follow up with a lawsuit.
Scott filed two claims against the city, one pertaining to police department and fire department personnel accessing information pertaining to him in the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System and another unrelated claim which hinges on the city’s issuance of a permit for what Scott maintains was botched work on an electrical connection on property he owns in the city. The city council acknowledged receipt of the two claims, but neither accepted nor rejected them. Instead, the claims have been passed along to Eric Vail, Rialto’s interim city attorney who has been serving in that capacity since the departure of Fred Galante as city attorney in March 2020.
According to the narrative attached to one of Scott’s claims, filed on August 13, “On February 16, 2021 I made a verbal complaint to Rialto Police Chief Mark Kling that I had been informed that a confidential informant, a whistleblower who is a current employee of the City of Rialto, had been told by a member of the Rialto Fire Department that he had been involved in investigating myself to determine my residency and property I owned in Kernville, California and other information related to my personal life and background. In addition, I informed Sean Greyson, acting city manager and fire chief, that such an allegation had been made about the Rialto Fire Department.”
According to Scott’s narrative, Greyson spontaneously identified for him “the only person in the fire department who would have CLETS [California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System] access and would have done this. The name of this person shall not be disclosed at this time; however, the whistleblower has named the same individual as the person who told them they had done this. I have direct knowledge that for a person in [the] Rialto Fire Department to have been able to run my information [he] would [have] had to [have] requested it be done by going to a Rialto police sergeant [or individual of] higher rank or another agency. Additionally, it can only be done for a legitimate law enforcement purpose and have a case number assigned to it. None of this exists.”
Scott’s narrative attached to the claim continues, “Since making a complaint, I have been advised by the Rialto Police Department that there is an ongoing investigation into this and that in fact my information has been run several times for reasons not for legitimate law enforcement purposes, under my various names and nicknames and that it has been referred to the district attorney of San Bernardino County. These acts, while unknown specifically to me until a whistleblower came forward on February 16, 2021 and later confirmed by the Rialto Police Department, were illegal acts [perpetrated] under a previous police chief and administration. Based on information I have received I believe that other members of the city council may have had similar acts committed against them.”
Scott wrote, “I believe this behavior to be in violation of my civil rights under the Constitution [of the] United States and the Constitution of the State of California and its codes. I also believe that it was done for the intended purpose of manipulating elections and contracts negotiated by City of Rialto management and then ratified by the Rialto City Council. This is a pattern of conduct which has not been uncommon in the City of Rialto and was discovered in prior years by the FBI as a result of improper acts within the Rialto Police Department. Additionally, these illegal investigations may have been used to attempt to influence lawsuits against the City of Rialto.”
Scott stated, “These illegal acts have created a hostile environment for me and others. Additionally, being a person with severe health problems it has caused my life to be stressful and created an environment of fear. As a result of this behavior, I have been hospitalized on several occasions.”
The claim alleged Scott had suffered $1 million in damages.
Four months and three weeks prior to the lodging of that claim, on March 22, 2021, Scott had filed another claim, one related to misfeasance in the city’s building department.
According to the narrative submitted with that claim, “On September 24, 2020 Chief Building Official Trang Huynh sent a letter to Daniel Courtright at 142 S Riverside Ave, Rialto California 92376 stating that construction activity had occurred at the above address, which is owned by myself G Edward Scott. The installation of a new electrical service was done with the owner’s (G Edward Scott) approval. Additionally other work was performed without owner’s approval of permits or engineering, including but not limited to new air conditioning and electrical work and piercing a shear wall. The City of Rialto issued a permit for new electrical service 100 amps to 200 amps without owner’s approval or engineering and allowed substandard and unsafe installation work to be performed in violation of [the] state building code. The City of Rialto allowed an untrained and uncertified permit technician to issue permits and the former chief building official failed to properly supervise that employee and failed to follow California building codes. Additionally [the] building inspector failed to require permits for [the] air conditioner which was connected to [a] new electrical panel. On September 25, 2020 the City of Rialto red-tagged 1425 Riverside Ave for failure [to] correct and unsafe conditions.”
The narrative goes on to state, “These damages have created a situation where owner is unable to make corrections and repairs as he does not have possession of [the] building and the inability to market and sale [the] building at market rate.”
The claim seeks a total of $150,000, $75,000 to, according to Scott “bring the building back to code” and $75,000 for “lost market value.”
The claim filed on March 22 was considered by the city council at its April 13 meeting. The claim filed on August 13 was considered by the city council at its September 14 meeting.
The minutes of the March 22 and September 14 meetings leave unclear what action the council took regarding Scott’s claims. According to Rialto City Clerk Barbara McGee, the council received the claims but did not accept them nor reject them. She referred further questions with regard to the status or processing of the claims to acting City Attorney Eric Vail.
In response to a host of questions the Sentinel posed to him, Vail in an email wrote, “I am not able to offer comments on open claims, investigations or ongoing legal actions.”
With his terse response, Vail bypassed the substance of the Sentinel’s inquiry, including where he now stands in laying out for the city council how it should ultimately respond to the claims, the actions cited in them, in particular those pertaining to the unauthorized use of the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, and the validity of the claims.
That the city has not processed the claims after the time that has elapsed since their filings is an indication that there is some validity to the contents of each, and that their substance is both engaging and troubling. An alternate reading of the delay is that Vail’s faculties as city attorney have been overmatched by the consideration that the claim was filed by one of his political masters.
The Sentinel’s inquiry of Vail included if his examination of Scott’s August 13 claim had determined whether information relating to Scott contained in the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System was accessed by members of the Rialto Police Department on multiple occasions and if that access had been made as the consequence of a legitimate investigation or legitimate investigations. The Sentinel asked Vail how many investigations of Councilman Scott there had been, what issues they had delved into and what the parameters of that investigation was or those investigations were. Vail was also queried as to who had accessed the database, whether more than one of the department’s officers had accessed the system with regard to Scott and if any of the investigations into Councilman Scott were legitimate.
Vail’s response to the Sentinel foreclosed answers to those questions, as well as to how high within the police department knowledge about the investigation or investigations into Councilman Scott went, whether the police chief had knowledge of the investigation or investigations and whether the police chief had given a green light to the investigation[s]. Vail’s non-response further left unanswered what the outcome[s] of the/those investigation[s] had been and whether Scott was determined to have been engaged in some form of illegal action/activity/comportment that would have warranted criminal charges being filed against him or whether he had been cleared by the investigation[s]. Vail additionally left unanswered whether any report with regard to the investigation or investigations had been generated and provided to the district attorney’s office.
Ultimately, Vail’s determination of the validity of Scott’s claims, in particular the one relating to the alleged misuse of the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System data bank, could have tremendous consequence for the city and its taxpayers.
If Vail ascertains that Scott’s claim is essentially accurate and on that basis advises the mayor and city council to settle the claim in Scott’s favor, given the indication in the claim that other members of the city council were likewise the victims of city employees’ misuse of the confidential information compiled with regard to them in the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, a settlement with Scott might very well invite claims from the other members of the council. Thus, if Scott comes in for a $1 million payday, so too could Mayor Deborah Robertson, Councilman Rafael Trujillo, Councilman Andy Carrizales and Councilwoman Karla Perez.
Further, if as the circumstance and Scott’s claim suggest, the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System was being used by city employees for political use and to influence the outcome of city elections, the number of those whose constitutional and privacy rights were violated could extend to 28 others yet living going back two decades, those being former Rialto council members and mayors as well as those who vied for those offices. Those would include Mayor Grace Vargas, Councilman Joe Baca, Jr., Councilman Ed Palmer, Councilwoman Winifred Lee Hanson and Councilman Kurt Wilson, as well as candidates Andrew Karol, Theresa Schneider, Michael Taylor, Stacy Augustine, Ana Gonzalez, Nicholas Nieblas, Lynn Hirtz, Jesse Aguayo, David D. Phillips, Lindsey Fretter, Kevin Moore, Joe Britt, Steve Miller, Sarmad Syed, June Hayes, Joe Sampson, John Sanchez, Big Mark Ferretiz, Clifford Friedeck, Dale Estvander, Pamela Whyte, Albert Roman and Victor Edinburgh.
The timeline on the alleged misuse of the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System is not clear. Scott was first elected to the city council in 1996. He left the council in 2000 as a consequence of his unsuccessful run for county supervisor that year. He returned to the council in 2004, was reelected in 2008, and left the city council in 2012 as a consequence of his unsuccessful run for mayor against Robertson. He was elected to the council in 2014 and reelected in 2018.
Using the $1 million Scott is seeking as a baseline, the city would conceivably be on the hook for $33 million if his claim succeeds and evidence surfaces to show that city employees, either on their own or in conjunction with union activity, made consistent use of the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System in researching Rialto’s politicians. A city effort to bar recovery by former officeholders or council/mayoral hopefuls on the basis of the statute of limitations could be overcome if those seeking such recovery demonstrate that the discovery of the violation of their rights and privacy did not come until Scott’s current uncovering of what had occurred.
Many consider Scott’s claims against the city of which he is a councilman of long standing and currently the mayor pro tem to be in poor form. Indeed, as one of the city’s highest ranking officials responsible for its oversight and monitoring how it is run, his claim in some respects can be seen as an acknowledgment of his own lack of diligence. Moreover, that he made such a claim against the city could be used against him politically next year, when his current term expires and he must stand for reelection to remain in office. Given the health issues he referenced in his claim, he may not seek reelection in 2022. Whatever his future political intent, with his claim relating to the police department’s/fire department’s use of the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System to violate his constitutional and privacy rights, he appears to have opened a can of worms that from the standpoint of City Hall and the interest of Rialto’s taxpayers might better have remained sealed.
Within the circle of those involved in civic affairs in Rialto there is discomfiture with the manner in which Vail has not moved decisively to foreclose Scott’s claims by advising the council to simply reject them. In the view of at least some, Vail showed more deference for Scott’s political status than was prudent by holding off on and continuing to delay a decision on the matter of the claims. One individual aware of the circumstance characterized the temporizing that has gone on with regard to the claims as “gutless,” saying that Vail should have long ago managed the crisis by seeing that the claim relating to the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System was rejected, thereby putting the burden on Scott to marshal whatever proof he believes he has, which would include exposing those who have provided him with the information upon which his claim is based.
The Sentinel this week made an effort to obtain from Scott further detail with regard to the claims and the narratives contained as attachments in them. Scott had not responded by press time.
The already apparent discrepancy between the attitude of a substantial portion of Redlands residents and the city’s municipal and political establishment with regard to the accelerated development of the city in the near term was given a crystal clear demonstration at the planning commission meeting on September 28.
Measure U, the controlled-growth initiative passed by Redlands voters overwhelmingly in 1997, was a companion piece to Proposition R passed in n 1978 and Measure N passed in 1987, all of which were intended to reduce growth to manageable levels. Measure R put a limit on the annual growth rate, followed by further refinements and restrictions put in place under the auspices of Measures N and U, such that no more than 400 residential dwelling units can be approved or constructed within the city annually, and the city council is not empowered to suspend, waive or rescind those provisions.
Last year, in a ploy to water down the restrictions in Measure U, Measure R and Measure N, the pro-development city council place Measure G on the ballot. Measure G called for eliminating the collective Measure R, N and U requirements that:
* A four-fifths vote of the city council is needed to approve residential densities exceeding 18 dwelling units per acre;
* A four-fifths vote of the city council is needed to approve residential buildings exceeding two stories or 35 feet in height;
* The need for developers to ensure that the level of traffic flow that exists at the intersections proximate to their projects prior to the construction of their projects be maintained after the projects are completed;
* The requirement that the voters of the city rather than the city council be solely authorized to establish any new land use designations in the city;
* The proponents of certain new development projects prepare a socioeconomic‐cost/benefit study before approval of those projects;
* Certain residential subdivision projects be subject to competitive review for issuance of building permits
* The developers of new projects pay 100 percent of the development impact fees that are imposed on those projects; and
* No more than 400 residential dwelling units be constructed within the city in any year.
In the March 3, 2020 election, Measure G was soundly defeated, with 14,407 residents or 64.88 percent opposing it and 7,798 voters or 35.12 percent supporting it.
Despite that, the Redlands Planning Commission, acting at the behest of the politicians who appointed them, voted unanimously twice within 12 minutes on September 28 to recommend to the city council that it grant dual exemptions to Measure U, and allow an out-of-town developer to erect buildings of density and height that exceed the more modest intensity standards city residents have repeatedly expressed as being their preference in the construction that is allowed to take place in the city of 71,707.
The planning commission’s September 28 votes with regard to one three-acre so-called mixed-use project and another 1.49-acre residential project are not binding, but they represent a recommendation that the city council grant Measure U exemptions on both of the projects which lie within the city’s downtown area. Those votes were the second and third such recommendations made by the planning commission with regard to aggressive development proposals in the downtown area in the last six months. In April, the Redlands Planning Commission made a recommendation that Village Partners Ventures LLC be allowed to transform the largely vacant 11.15-acre Redlands Mall into a melange of mixed-uses including residential, retail, office professional quarters, restaurants, recreational facilities and a six-story parking structure around a pedestrian plaza and swimming pool, with multi-story residential buildings of three, four and five vertical levels. The following month, the Redlands City Council approved Village Partners Ventures’ request for the Measure U exemption for its proposed project, citing the planning commission’s recommendation.
On September 28, the planning commission took up Vantage One Real Estate Investment’s proposal to construct 138 apartments and three restaurant buildings on about three acres at 212 and 216 Brookside Avenue, the former sites of the long-shuttered San Bernardino County Superior Court Redlands Courthouse Annex and the city’s former police station, safety hall and city council chamber, as well as two homes. The property lies across Brookside Avenue from the U.S. Post Office. Vantage One acquired the properties from the city in 2017, after which the city granted the company’s request for a zone change to allow it to be developed commercially. In the three years since, Vantage One has revamped its original plan to transform the acreage into a dual purpose property that will cover both commercial and residential use. Of note is that in addition to the commercial component, consisting of three restaurants, the developer is seeking to place more than 45 units of housing per acre onto the land, an intensity of use far beyond anything that currently exists in the city.
Vantage One also sought permission to undertake an even more intensive use of just under an-acre-and-a-half of property some 750 feet north of the mixed use proposal, one that would place 100 units per acre at the northeast corner of Redlands Boulevard and Eureka Street, on property located at 200 West Redlands Boulevard. That project, consisting of 149 apartment units on 1.49 acres of ground, is to supplant a 40,000 square foot furniture store. The commission also approved Vantage One’s Measure U exemption request for the apartment complex. According to Vantage One, it will squeeze onto less than an acre-and-a-half the 149 multifamily units described, variously, as studio models and one-bedroom units ranging from 516 to 829 square feet, as well as a parking structure which will feature 220 parking spaces. Despite the placement of living quarters for some 250 people as well as an area adequate for them to park their cars on an expanse of land that in other areas of the city would accommodate no more than six to eight single family residences, the project will include, Vantage One maintains, an outdoor lounge, shade structures, a dog park and a private bar area, a center plaza with an outdoor pool, two spas, a game room and a fitness room as well as public and private open space.
In both cases, the developer is requesting that the city council ultimately make a finding that the proposed projects are exempt from Measure U. The basis for those exemptions relates to the projects falling within the city’s controversial Transit Villages Specific Plan Area.
The Transit Villages Specific Plan calls for encouraging future development within the core areas of the city, in particular downtown, the area between Tennessee Street and New York Street and near the University of Redlands, where stops on the Redlands Passenger Rail Project are to be located. The Redlands Passenger Rail Project, slated for completion as early as next year, is to link Redlands to San Bernardino and the Metrolink rail system running from San Bernardino to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles and back. The Transit Villages concept calls for constructing high density, multi-story housing within walking distance of the three railway stops in Redlands to discourage the residents who live there from using their personal vehicles such that they instead utilize the train system that is being developed in Southern California to allow those living in the inland areas to commute westward toward or into Los Angeles in the morning to work and return home by rail in the late afternoon or evening.
The element of the Transit Villages Specific Plan that calls for creating a dense living environment in Redlands’ downtown area and allowing for high-rise apartments as well as parking structures clashes with many preservationists’ idea of keeping the city’s historic downtown intact. Moreover, the concerted efforts of a group of Redlands residents, who are determined to prevent any further development of structures of more than three stories, are out of sync with the Transit Villages Specific Plan.
Though the documentation presented to the planning commission did not specify the height of the structures on either of the projects, in the case of the Brookside Avenue development, the structures are likely to be three, four and five stories. To accomplish the erection of 149 units, a parking structure and promised amenities on the 1.49 acres on Redlands Boulevard, it is doubtful the buildings would be anything less than seven or eight stories.
The height of buildings in Redlands is a hotly contested issue. Those in favor of keeping buildings close to the ground appear to have the upper hand numerically. Nevertheless, the establishment at City Hall has other ideas.
In September, the grassroots group Friends of Redlands, working in conjunction with another collection of residents, Redlands for Responsible Growth Management, began gathering signatures to force a vote on what the allowable height limit on Redlands buildings is to be. The proposed Friends of Redlands’ initiative calls for disallowing buildings taller than two stories next to single-story homes without the consent of the owner of the single-story home, limiting the height of buildings downtown to no more than 50 feet, and the permitting of buildings to a height of no more than 62 feet – tantamount to four stories – in the area around New York Street. The initiative would further require that the city council unanimously approve making any density intensifications on projects, and it would layer greater parking provision requirements on developers seeking project approvals. To qualify the initiative for the ballot in 2022, the petitioners needed ten percent of Redlands’ 42,000 voters to affix their signatures to the ballot application. To force the election to be held this year, within 109 days of the requisite number of signatures being verified, Friends of Redlands needed 15 percent of the city’s voters – 6,409 – to sign the petition.
On June 7, 2021 Friends of Redlands and Redlands for Responsible Growth Management provided City Clerk Jeanne Donaldson with three huge boxes containing petitions calling for a special election to stop tall and dense development to which 7,715 signatures were affixed. It is not clear what Donaldson’s count determined, though there has been no indication the vote is to be held this year. Rather, it appears the referendum on high rises is to be decided with a vote held next year that will coincide with the regularly scheduled municipal election and the gubernatorial general election.
It appears that city officials are militating to get multiple projects pertaining to development downtown – including Vantage One’s three-acre three-, four- and five-story project on Brookside, its 1.49-acre seven- or eight-story project on Redlands Boulevard and Village Partners Ventures LLC’s 11.15-acre three-, four-, five- and six-level project on the Redlands Mall site approved before the height restrictions can be voted upon by the city’s residents.
Of note is that citizen activists advocating low growth and controlled growth in Redlands have become suspicious about the role the planning commission plays in providing support and a rationale for the city council’s more aggressive development stance. When confronted about their actions encouraging more intensive building activity in the city than a vocal contingent of citizens want, council members on occasion have said that their votes merely reflect the desire and direction of the community as embodied in the planning commission’s votes and recommendations. Nevertheless, what has loomed into view is that the planning commission very often modulates its action in conformance with the city council’s expectations, including ones that are expressed privately between members of the council and the commission, outside the scrutiny and earshot of the public. This circular rationale has led some to conclude that graft is a component of the city’s land use decision-making process.
During the planning commission’s discussion before the votes taken on the Vantage One projects, Planning Commission Chairman Conrad Guzkowski, perhaps purposefully or perhaps inadvertently, put on display the level to which he and his colleagues are intent on facilitating high rise and intensely dense development downtown.
Acknowledging that Vantage One has not yet fleshed out what the projects are to entail, Guzkowski indicated, even before the commission took its votes, that he and his colleagues were set on clearing the way for the multi-story projects intended to house upwards of 100 to 150 people per acre to take place.
“It is very clear to me,” said Guzkowski, “and I hope it is to all of you, that we’re not acting upon a specific project, but we’re really considering how the idea of the redevelopment of that mall – as at least was being depicted to us – how that fits into the property, its location and its relevance and proximity relationship to the downtown transit infrastructure that is being developed.”
Guzkowski suggested that what Vantage One is doing is merely to layer in more intensive development on top of what has already been set forth by Village Partners Ventures LLC.
“We worked our way through all of that and then it went on to council and that record is well established,” Guzkowski said. “So now we come to these two items. Here it comes, and now we have something of a generalized description of how this property might move forward. The advantage on this one is we have some history to it. We’ve had a rezoning request on it, for example, so it’s not as if it’s a stranger to this commission, but again the question that was coming up was ‘What is it we’re struggling with and what is it we’re being asked to do with respect to Measure U, to not only be faithful to Measure U, be encouraging of development to take place in the city, particularly on properties that we are desperate or at least feel strongly, some or hopefully most of us, feel need to be developed in a new fashion to move forward?’ How do we make all that happen without jumping out in front of ourselves on a specific project approval? So, that’s where I was struggling with it. In working with staff, what I actually did was draft a suggestion on how to make sure that we were communicating to all sides who had strong opinions on this, whichever side that might be, as to how Measure U applies to future development in the Transit Village and downtown specifically here, how does it relate, and so we are communicating what we are really trying to tackle here. This is my interpretation on this. I am not saying it should be yours. So I drafted it, and staff has helped to refine it. The issue here is to say we’re adopting the resolution, which is finding and recommending to the council that the subject property – we are dealing with the property and its future development – but it’s the property that’s meeting the threshold criteria that’s identified for exemption, in the staff report for exemption from Measure U, and specifically category D. It’s by virtue of its location within a quarter mile of the downtown transit station and that it provides for that threshold, at least that threshold density of 20 units to the acre.”
The category D exemption Guzkowski cited pertains to allowing greater density and greater height on buildings than would otherwise apply to meet the goal of large numbers of people living near the railway stations as envisioned in the Transit Villages areas.
“So we’re not here – This is me speaking again – We’re not here to say ‘Whatever is being proposed there in this illustration is now suddenly what we’re going to be by implication sanctioning or suggesting is what we want to see in the future,” Guzkowski said. “What we’re saying is the developer in this particular application is demonstrating that the property that they’re proposing to develop in the future and to submit applications for meets those thresholds, and that is the extent of the action we are taking today. No bias as to future action, no bias as to not allowing but rather say, ‘Yes, that property meets that threshold.’”
Guzkowski at that point broke into a suggestion of how his colleagues should vote.
“I hope you’re reading in a similar kind of fashion,” he said.
Guzkowski was barely able to contain his enthusiasm for packing as many residents into the downtown area as possible.
“That’s the magic behind what you are seeing here,” he said. “It appears to me that we’ll have at least a 20-to-the-acre density on the residential. That is a threshold test that is all I believe we are being asked to do. And I think that’s faithful to the job at hand, pursuant to Measure U.”
Ultimately, Guzkowski and his colleagues voted unanimously to recommend that the city council allow 26 studio apartments, four studio apartments with a den, 71 apartment units with one bed and one bathroom, 25 units with one bedroom, one bathroom and one den and nine units with two bedrooms and two bathrooms and three units with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and one den, along with three restaurants proposed as ranging from 3,450 to 3,505 square feet into what was called the Redlands City Center located on Brookside Avenue. They thereafter voted unanimously to approve the building of 149 multifamily units to include studio and one-bedroom units ranging between 516 square feet and 829 square feet and an accompanying parking structure at the site on Redlands Boulevard.
The hearing for the Brookside project began 57 minutes and 41 seconds into what was overall a two hour two minute and 21 second meeting. The hearing for the Brookside project concluded and the vote was taken at one hour 29 minutes and 43 seconds into the meeting. The commission immediately afterward took up the Redlands Boulevard project, and the voting on it was completed at one hour 41 minutes and 37 seconds into the meeting.
San Bernardino County and its sheriff’s department have parted ways with the City of Hesperia over their shared defense against the federal government’s 2019 lawsuit alleging the city and the department discriminated against African Americans and Latinos with the 2017 passage and subsequent enforcement of Hesperia’s “Crime Free Rental Housing Ordinance.”
Throughout the first 31 months that the case was being litigated, the city and county shared the same law firm, Aleshire & Wynder, as their legal representative. Aleshire & Wynder is the firm in which Hesperia City Attorney Eric Dunn is a founding partner. With the city and sheriff’s department, which provides contract law enforcement services to the city, as well as the county represented by the same firm, the defense being put on was, at least ostensibly, coordinated and complimentary, with no showing of inconsistent or conflicting assertions of fact or legal theory as the case was progressing toward trial. In July, however, the county filed for a substitution of attorney, replacing Aleshire & Wynder with the law firm of Lynberg & Watkins. Thereafter, attorneys with Lynberg & Watson, asserting that a conflict between the sheriff’s department and the city had existed from the initiation of the litigation onward that Aleshire & Wynder failed to disclose and deal with forthrightly, sought to have the court, in the person of Federal Judge Andre Birotte, Jr., remove Aleshire & Wynder as the city’s legal representative in the case.
At this point, some 34 months after the federal lawsuit was filed and less than five-and-a-half months before the matter is scheduled to go to trial on March 22, 2022, the contretemps between the city and the county has thrown the defense of both into disarray. With 80 filings already made in the case, some of them quite substantial, it will be a daunting, and expensive, task for the lawyers that will be representing the county, the city and the department to come up to speed with regard to the issues dealt with so far while contending with new filings by the government. Compounding that, the possibility that the two primary defendant agencies – the city and the sheriff’s department – will be sniping at each other both before and during the trial renders doubtful that the matter will ultimately be resolved positively for either the city or the county. Accordingly, the city is looking to settle the case by negotiation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office perhaps as early as next week.
In December 2019, the U.S. Justice Department, through the Civil Rights Section in the Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office and the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, filed a lawsuit alleging that the City of Hesperia and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department misused the City of Hesperia’s so-called Crime Free Rental Housing Ordinance, which was in effect between January 1, 2016 and its amendment on July 18, 2017, to unfairly banish from the city African American and Latino renters in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
The Crime Free Rental Housing Ordinance required all rental property owners to evict tenants upon notice by the sheriff’s department that the tenants had engaged in any alleged criminal activity on or near the property. The federal lawsuit alleged that the sheriff’s department exercised its substantial discretion in enforcement to target African American and Latino renters and areas of Hesperia inhabited in the main by racial and ethnic minorities. The U.S. Attorney’s Office maintained in its suit that although the ordinance purported to target “criminal activity,” the sheriff’s department notified landlords to begin evictions of entire families – including children – for conduct involving one tenant or even non-tenants, evictions of victims of domestic violence, and evictions based on mere allegations and without evidence of criminal activity.
The federal lawsuit alleged that the city, with substantial support from the sheriff’s department, enacted the ordinance with the intent of addressing what one city councilmember called a “demographical problem” – the city’s increasing African American and Latino population. The ordinance resulted in the evictions of numerous African American and Latino renters.
The lawsuit was based on an investigation and charge of discrimination by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which found that African American and Latino renters were significantly more likely to be evicted under the ordinance than white renters, and that evictions disproportionately occurred in parts of Hesperia where the majority of homeowners or renters were members of a racial or ethnic minority. According to the complaint, the Department of Housing and Urban Development determined that African American renters were almost four times as likely as non-Hispanic white renters to be evicted because of the ordinance, and Latino renters were 29 percent more likely than non-Hispanic white renters to be evicted. Sheriff’s department data showed that 96 percent of the people the sheriff’s department targeted for eviction under the ordinance in 2016 had lived in census blocks where racial and ethnic minority members constituted a majority of the residents.
Citing statements by city officials who expressed a desire to reverse “demographic” changes in Hesperia and persuade recent arrivals from Los Angeles County to get “the hell out of our town,” the lawsuit alleged that city officials enacted the ordinance to drive African American and Latino renters out of Hesperia.
Included among the plaintiff’s attorneys involved in the case are Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, Head of the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section Sameena Shina Majeed, Deputy Chief of the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section R. Tamar Hagler, Acting Deputy Chief of the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section Anna Medina, trial attorneys Aurora Bryant, Christopher D. Belen, Abigail A. Nurse and Alyssa C. Lareau, Acting United States Attorney in Los Angeles Tracy L. Wilkison, Chief of the Los Angeles Civil Division David Harris, Chief of the Los Angeles Civil Rights Division Karen Ruckert, Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Nickell and Assistant United States Attorney Katherine M. Hikida
In July, lawyers with Aleshire & Wynder raised an unspecified issue they thought might represent a conflict between the city and the sheriff’s department, and sought to withdraw from representing the county entities, those being the sheriff’s department and the county itself.
The county’s new legal representatives, lawyers Shannon L. Gustafson and Amy R. Margolies with Lynberg & Watkins, on August 18 filed a motion to disqualify Aleshire & Wynder as Hesperia’s counsel.
According to that motion, “On October 22, 2019, prior to the initiation of this lawsuit, but after HUD [the Department of Housing and Urban Development] issued its charge of discrimination, a precursor to this lawsuit, the county defendants tendered their defense pursuant the contract between the city and the county for law enforcement services in the City of Hesperia, defendant city accepted the tender, setting forth that, ‘The city will accept the tender of defense of the County of San Bernardino in the matter of the discrimination charge.’ Thereafter, all defendants (city, county and sheriff) were collectively represented by city defendant’s attorneys, the law firm Aleshire & Wynder, LLP since the filing of this action by plaintiff. However, on July 6, 2021, more than 19-months into this litigation, Aleshire & Wynder notified the county defendants that an actual conflict of interest exists between the city and the county and abruptly dropped county defendants as clients, indicating that Aleshire & Wynder would no longer represent the county or the sheriff’s department due to the conflict; but, elected to remain as counsel for city defendants. Based on Aleshire & Wynder’s position that it would no longer represent them, the county defendants were forced to retain new counsel and a request for approval of substitution of counsel was filed on July 14, 2021, and approved by the court on July 22, 2021. On July 28, 2021, shortly after being confirmed as counsel of record, new defense counsel pursuant to Central District Local Rule 7-3 initiated the meet and confer process with Aleshire & Wynder, setting forth the county defendants’ position that the conflict of interest required the disqualification of Aleshire & Wynder. The parties met and conferred several times between July 28, 2021 and August 5, 2021 to attempt to resolve the conflict and were unable to do so. Aleshire & Wynder therefore requested time to meet with the Hesperia City Council to request permission to voluntarily withdraw and indicated that they would do so at the next available meeting on August 17, 2021. The county defendants therefore agreed to wait until after this meeting with the sincere hope that Aleshire & Wynder would do the right thing, given its former representation of the county. However, on August 18, 2021, San Bernardino County Counsel was informed that a voluntary withdrawal would not be filed. The county defendants have therefore made a good faith effort pursuant to Local Rule 7-3 to request that Aleshire & Wynder voluntarily withdraw, given its ethical obligations to its former client. It is now evident that this motion is the only recourse the county defendants have to seek disqualification of Aleshire & Wynder for the reasons stated herein. County defendants make their motion on the grounds that city defendant’s counsel has violated California Rule of Professional Conduct 3-310 by failing to obtain the informed written consent of each client as there was a potential conflict of interest from the beginning of the representation.”
Furthermore, according to Gustafson and Margolies, Aleshire & Wynder are responsible “for creating an actual conflict of interest in violation of California Rule of Professional Conduct 1.7 when it ceased representation of the county defendants. Here, by electing to represent all defendants (city, county and sheriff’s department) at the outset, and, for the last nineteen months, Aleshire & Wynder created an actual conflict of interest and sought to avoid this conflict by abruptly dropping county defendants like a hot potato, something the law prohibits. This tactic is a violation of Aleshire & Wynder’s most sacred duties of confidentiality and loyalty. Furthermore, these violations have interfered with the orderly administration of justice and the progress of this case. Accordingly, county defendants request that Aleshire & Wynder be disqualified from continuing to represent any party in this case and for ancillary relief.”
It has not been publicly disclosed what the conflict referenced consisted of. There is some overlap between the sheriff’s department and the city with regard to issues featured in the case. Aside from the sheriff’s department serving as Hesperia’s de facto police department under a contract to provide law enforcement services, the matter is complicated by the consideration that in 2015, Nils Bentsen was the commander of the Hesperia sheriff’s station and was thus serving as what was essentially Hesperia’s police chief. Bentsen was in large measure the architect of the Crime Free Rental Housing Ordinance, which was drafted over an extended period of time in 2015 and enacted by the city council in November 2015. The following month, Bentsen was appointed by the city council to assume the position of city manager, which he formally filled in January 2016 after his retirement from the sheriff’s department. The city did not implement the ordinance and its provisions until Bentsen moved into the city manager’s post. In this way, Bentsen is a central figure in the federal suit in his capacity as both a sheriff’s department and city employee.
On September 16, the court granted the motion to disqualify Aleshire & Wynder as the city’s legal representative, and Aleshire & Wynder submitted its withdrawal intention the following day, but remains, technically, as Hesperia’s legal counsel until the city retains another firm, which it must do under court mandate by October 26. Meanwhile, on October 14, Aleshire & Wynder is scheduled to engage with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, in a settlement conference aimed at bringing the Justice Department’s action against the city to a conclusion prior to trial.
The seriousness with which the situation is viewed by the county was demonstrated by the board of supervisors having been given a briefing on the matter during its closed session with the office of county counsel, the county’s stable of in-house attorneys, during its meeting on Tuesday, October 5.
The Sentinel has received an unconfirmed report that there has been a break in the Lauren Cho missing person case.
Cho went missing on June 28, 2021, at approximately 5:10 p.m., when she reportedly walked away from the residence where she was staying in the 8600 block of Benmar Trail in Yucca Valley.
Investigators followed all traces and networked with her family and friends in an effort to discover new leads.
On July 24, 2021, sheriff’s department fixed wing aircraft conducted aerial searches of the remote mountain terrain near the scene of her last known whereabouts.
On Saturday, July 31, 2021, at 6:00 a.m., detectives assigned to the Morongo Basin Station and a search and rescue team executed a search warrant in the 8600 block of Benmar Trail. During the search warrant service seven canines searched the last known location where Cho was seen and surrounding unincorporated areas for evidence.
Investigators with San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Specialized Investigations Division were brought in to assist the Morongo Basin Station in the effort to locate Cho, a 30-year-old resident of New Jersey in September.
Based on present indicators and the circumstance, the outcome appears to be grim.
As the first round of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic permeated across the globe, beginning in March 2020, schools in San Bernardino County as in all of California discontinued in-class instruction, going to a remote learning model, familiarizing students like never before with electronic forums such as Zoom, and engaging in on-line learning sessions. Those measures were taken out of an abundance of caution, as the coronavirus in its earliest version and initial permutations were proving fatal among a portion of the population.
In general, medical masks were recommended and in time became de rigueur and ultimately mandatory in public places and businesses which were not hit with closure orders. A segment of the population questioned the seriousness of the pandemic, dismissing COVID-19 as just another version of the flu and a not very serious one at that, and claimed that the circumstance was the outgrowth of a governmental hoax perpetrated to trigger panic and hysteria within the population to grease the way for a set of oppressive government-imposed restrictions.
As it turned out, those below the age of majority, most specifically those of junior high school and elementary school age, proved to be particularly resistant to the affliction. Nevertheless, schools remained closed to the end of the 2019-20 school year and throughout the first semester of the 2020-21 school year. Selectively, certain schools began reopening in the spring of 2021, and the lion’s share of school districts throughout California and San Bernardino County prepared for the reopening of schools with the initiation of the late summer/fall semester of the 2021-22 school year.
By the end of 2020, an experimental and, by traditional medical standards, untested vaccine was available. With the dawn of 2021, the vaccine, by virtue of its relatively benign showing within the limited element of the population that braved it, became more widely available and was distributed without cost to the adult population willing to receive it.
In April 2021, just as a significant portion of the adult population was immunized, the Delta version of the coronavirus/COVID malady, the first substantial transmogrification of the disease, hit.
School openings in many venues continued, while in virtually all others, planning toward public school opening with the advent of the 2021-22 school year continued.
Paradoxically, the Delta variant turned out to be far more impactful upon its youthful infectees than the original version of the condition, such that a small percentage of infants, toddlers, children, adolescents and young adults became seriously ill upon contracting the pathosis. Some died.
In this way, the prospect of across-the-board school reopenings and the proximity of millions of students with one another, many of whom were now recognized as vulnerable to the potentially fatal virus, gave public health officials, school officials and government officials tremendous pause as the beginning of the school year in August approached.
The California Public Health Department issued an order, which was refined and updated after the initiation of school in most districts statewide on September 1, mandating that everyone within an enclosed school setting, adults and children over the age of 2 in pre-school through high school, wear a mask. There were limited specified exemptions extending to those with medical conditions or disabilities that made wearing a mask impractical or risky. An exemption applied to everyone during mealtime.
A cross section of parents objected to the mandate, stating it was unnecessary, that it was an imposition on the students, that it ran contrary to the independence of action and thought that should be a principle in American life and which those parents were attempting to instill in their children, that it was an abridgment of the students’ rights, and an effort on the part of the government to brainwash the students and cow them into conformance with government-issued orders and the surrendering of their rights.
A month later, the State of California and Governor Gavin Newsom, who had easily outdistanced an effort to remove him from office during a statewide recall vote on September 14, upped the ante. State officials announced on October 1 that in accordance with the Food and Drug Administration giving approval for the administration of the vaccine to students of junior high school and high school age, students 12 years of age and up will be required to be vaccinated as early as January 1, 2022 and no later than July 1, 2022 in order to attend school. Those officials likened the move to the precautions long in place that require children be vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella before they can begin school and the more recent requirement that they be vaccinated against pertussis. Some parents expressed disappointment that the order did not immediately extend to kindergarten and grade school students. California officials added that the state will require the COVID vaccine for students in kindergarten through sixth grade upon the federal government giving approval for the provision of the vaccine to children between the ages of 5 and 11,
Some, however, remain highly skeptical of the government’s move to protect the population from either the original coronavirus pandemic – COVID-19 – or its mutations or intensifications, such as the Delta variant.
According to some of those railing against the government’s COVID precaution mandates, the entire effort is a conspiracy by government in conjunction with the major corporations on the planet to bring about “a great reset” which is to move everyone to a worldwide cashless society system tied directly to vaccine passports that in the near future will further entail the addition of a carbon tax to track and trace everywhere that people travel. This will lead to restrictions on permissible movement by the population, these conspiracists maintain. The governmental establishment has been lying about the COVID crisis all along, and is continuously changing its story to effectuate the eventual enslavement of the vast majority of the human population, those who advocate against accepting the restrictions propound. The anti-vaxxers have put out that the government is using manufactured fear to control the populace. All of this is part of a “new-world agenda” to take people’s cars away from them, those saying the COVID pandemic is a hoax maintain, and they assert that the death rates from COVID-19 were and are greatly exaggerated or non-existent. Each piece of the COVID doomsayers’ story does not stand up to common sense or science, the government’s critics hold. Those advocating resistance to the government-imposed restrictions cite early government misstatements minimizing the seriousness of the coronavirus and its spread and that it would not jump from China where it was first detected to the United States, which was quickly and abruptly followed by a reversal that included mandates, martial law and lockdowns, which, they say, was accompanied by governmental assertions that a two-week shutdown of commerce and socializing would stem the spread. The government continuously extended the lockdown in an effort to “flatten the curve” of the rise in the spread of the disease, followed by the creation of a game plan that called for ending the crisis with the advent of a vaccine, those taking issue with the government’s action say. The hospitals were not filled with the sick and dying during the pandemic as the government claimed, the conspiracists maintain, and reports to that effect were “fake news” put out by the mainstream media which was in lockstep with the government. Emergency field hospitals set up to handle an overflow of emergency patients went largely unused, according to those who question the story put out by the government. The public, kept in the dark by virtue of being in lockdown, was unable to discern that there was in reality no crisis as the government’s false narrative claimed because they could not check out for themselves how empty the hospitals actually were, those who deny the government’s sense of alarm say. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed the way that death due to coronavirus was calculated, those rejecting the governments representations report. Constantly rising COVID deaths claimed by the government were in reality deaths from other causes such as heart disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes or other life-threatening co-morbidities, they say.
In San Bernardino County, a manifestation of this distrust came at the September 16 Chino Joint Unified School District Board meeting. Board member Andrew Cruz, who was backed by his board colleague James Na, sought to gain majority board support for a resolution that much, if not all of the public effort at the state and local levels to arrest the progress of COVID-19 and its current mutation, the Delta variant, represents “government overreach.”
Cruz’s resolution opposed California’s COVID-19 vaccination mandates, and iterated his belief that “the use of coercion as a means to make individuals submit to vaccination is unacceptable” and that “the district opposes statewide vaccination mandates that put employment at risk and compromise personal freedom.”
There were elements in the crowd who concurred with Cruz, most particularly a group bearing the name Parent Association of Chino Valley, the members of which celebrate “Christian, conservative and family values,” while claiming more than 1,000 members in Chino and Chino Hills. Those with Parent Association of Chino Valley who spoke emphasized that school district staff and the majority of the board they characterized as “liberals” were not listening to their concerns about how the imposition of the mandates were violations of their rights and their children’s rights, and that state and local officials were not considering the potential hazard of the vaccines developed to fight the coronavirus. Some demanded to know whether the district would accept liability if any of their children were harmed by the vaccine.
Within the crowd at the September 15 Chino school board meeting there was an even more numerous contingent of parents who supported the state and local district establishment’s strategy to use masking and eventual vaccination to reduce the spread of the virus and prevent the contagion from hurting or even killing their children.
Ultimately, Cruz’s effort to pass his resolution failed. While it garnered his colleague James Na’s vote, it was opposed by Board President Joe Schaffer, Don Bridge, and Christina Gagnier.
In the fall of 2020 moving into the winter, the original version of the deadly coronavirus – COVID-19 – hit what was once thought to be its deadliest crescendo.
According to San Bernardino County’s Department of Health, as of Wednesday, December 23, 2020, 170,855 of the county’s residents had contracted confirmed cases of COVID-19. As of December 21, 2020 a total of 1,375 county residents had perished from the disease from the onset of the outbreak in February 2020. As of Wednesday, December 23, 2020, 1,407 deaths of county residents had been attributed to the disease. Over the next two days there were 13 COVID-19-related deaths and a jump of 3,246 in the number of those with confirmed cases of the contagion countywide. Those numbers were a respite from what had occurred in the weeks previously. A serious advance of the syndrome took place between December 14 and December 21 inclusive, when 134 of those with the affliction died. That included 52 deaths over a 48-hour period on December 19 and 20. Deaths wholly or partially attributable to COVID-19 in San Bernardino County reached their apex on December 16, when 63 people died. As of Christmas Day 2020, over the previous four days, 55 deaths from the coronavirus had been recorded, a clip of thirteen-and-a-half people per day. That represented a weekly average of 94.5 deaths. Months before that, during the seven days of August 2 to August 9, 2020, inclusive, 129 people died in San Bernardino County.
Yet the statistics for all of 2020 in San Bernardino were tame, compared to what has been ongoing in the last nine-and-one-quarter months.
Following the close of 2020, there was for more than three months a gradual drawdown in the number of COVID-19 deaths, followed by a lull in the crisis, which some attributed to the substantial vaccination rate.
Nevertheless, the advent of the Delta variant has pushed the Coronavirus-affiliated death rate beyond what it had been previously. During the first ten months of the crisis, from February until Christmas 2020, there had been 1,420 virus-related deaths in San Bernardino County, such that the county’s residents were dying from COVID-connected-or-influenced conditions at a rate of roughly 4.25 per day.
As of today, October 8, there have been 5,556 total confirmed COVID-19/Delta variant related deaths in San Bernardino County since the disease penetrated the county in February 2020.
From Christmas Day 2020 to today, San Bernardino County residents have found themselves dying, from the ravages of the original version of COVID-19 and any variants including the more deadly Delta version, at a rate of 14.41 per day. That includes the dip in deaths in the months of January to March span, and the acceleration in morbidity that began in April with the local advent of the Delta variant.
External data is as alarming, particularly as pertains to children.
Across the country, where last year at this time pediatric COVID-19 cases accounted for well under 5 percent of the pandemic’s reach, at present nationwide, 25 percent of the cases are those infecting children. Over 243,000 children are known to have come down with COVID-19 in one of its various forms, including the Delta variant, between September 2 and September 9, 2021, the latest accounting period on children currently available. That represents the second highest number of cases among children in a single week since the pandemic began, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
While hospitalization of children for the condition was previously so rare as to be practically unheard of, as of September 29, 2021, 2.4 percent of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in the United States were children. At this point, Arkansas, Florida, Nebraska and Iowa have discontinued reporting on childhood COVID cases. There have been, as of today, 520 childhood COVID-19 fatalities and rising throughout 46 reporting states, Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico.
At its September 14 meeting, the Morongo Valley Unified School District Board convened at Joshua Tree Elementary School in Joshua Tree. On the agenda for that meeting was a presentation of the district’s COVID-19 protocols that were to be enunciated by Superintendent Doug Weller and assistant superintendents Sharon Flores, Mike Ghelber, and Amy Woods. The policy extends to a universal masking mandate for kindergartners to 12th grade students that came from on high in Sacramento to schools throughout the state. Woods’ intent was to explain how the district’s failure to enforce the mask requirement would breach not only a legal duty, but also the primary responsibility of educators to protect students. Violation of mandatory public health guidance puts the health and safety of students, staff and their families needlessly at risk, Woods eventually stated, and would carry with it significant legal and financial risks.
Before that, or any official action could be gotten to, however, the board had to deal with a show of protest with regard to that protocol. Present at the meeting was a beefed-up security detail, consisting of San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Sergeant Omar Lastra and deputies Elizabeth Gonzalez and Jose Perez. The trio had been dispatched to the meeting because of reports that parents ready to contest the policy were to be in attendance.
As part of the protest, those parents had refused to don masks. That was problematic because part of the state’s and the district’s COVID protocol is that whenever anyone – children or adults – are indoors on school grounds, they are required to wear masks.
Inside the Joshua Tree Elementary multipurpose room were unmasked parents awaiting the arrival of the school board so that they could make clear their belief that a matter of principle is involved, one pertaining to freedom and the maintenance of rights to be free from government mandates for masking or vaccination or anything else. They were itching to make a case that masks and vaccine represent a health risk – ones that were as grave as the coronavirus itself. There are side effects to the vaccine, they said, and it has not been shown to be safe for children. Moreover, the masks reroute carbon dioxide back into the noses and mouths of those wearing masks, they said.
The standoff continued as the school board members refused to come into the meeting room while the unmasked adults were present. Also present in the room were parents who were not part of the protest and who were masked.
Sergeant Lastra told the protesters that there would be no meeting if those present did not mask up. After a roughly 20 minute delay, with Lastra, Gonzalez and Perez glaring at them, the protesters relented. They did not put on masks, but left.
Some of the protesters, citing principle, said they simply could not put masks on and knuckle under to an illegal and unconstitutional mandate. One, who was prepared to confront the school board members with Benjamin Franklin’s adage that “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety,” suggested the school board and the district staff were cowardly in their unwillingness to be confronted by the protesters.