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.
Fuller and Vail are furiously seeking to bring the matter to a quiet close before it breaks into full-blown scandal. A full public airing of the seamy details of what occurred, Fuller and Vail fear, carries 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 Mayor Pro Tem Ed Scott 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 mayor were similarly subjected to having their profiles and personal information contained in what are supposed to be restricted governmental data bases accessed and used for either political use or to dissuade them from engaging in public advocacy.
The claims made by Scott came in sworn statements 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 of the city or its employees, must lodge a claim with that entity before taking legal action in court against the governmental entity. 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.
In the case of the claims filed by Scott, one of which pertained to 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 unrelated to the police department and fire department personnel accessing information pertaining to him in the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, the city council acknowledged receipt of the claims but neither accepted nor rejected them. Instead, the claims have been passed along to Vail, the city’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 claim, “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 whistle blower 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.”