SB Police Union Endorsing Valdivia’s Political Allies

Though its membership is unwilling to publicly embrace scandal-plagued incumbent Mayor John Valdivia in this year’s race for the county seat’s highest political office, the San Bernardino Police Officers Association is nevertheless seeking to assist him in recapturing control over the city council that slipped from his grasp roughly a year after he took office following his November 2018 election.
Since Valdivia came into the mayoral position in December 2018 following his election the previous month, there has been a cascade of less-than-flattering revelations about the 46-year-old mayor, many of which hint at or expose a level of dishonesty beyond that which even the jaded electorate in San Bernardino County has come to accept. According to three of his former staff members – Don Smith, Mirna Cisneros and Jackie Aboud – Valdivia has accepted cash payments from entities such as franchise holders, project applicants or those seeking city contracts, while simultaneously pressuring city staff to deny municipal services to those who do not support him.
Cisneros, Aboud and another former employee in the mayoral office, Karen Cervantes, along with Arts and Historical Preservation Commissioner Alyssa Payne maintain that Valdivia made unwanted sexual overtures to them.
Seven applicants for cannabis operation licenses in the city have stated that Valdivia took money from them in exchange for commitments, some of which he lived up to and some which he did not, that they would be provided with permits to operate within the city.
Documentation has surfaced to indicate that in exchange for money provided to him by an applicant to renovate the city’s downtown mall property, Valdivia acted to eliminate that company’s main competitor for the contract.
All seven members of the city council in December voted to censure the mayor based upon a finding that he had utilized city funds to engage in travel and overnight stays at hotels and indulge himself and others in lavish meals both inside and outside California while he was engaged in activities unrelated to his mayoral duties.
According to one member of the police union, elements of both the rank and file in the department and the union leadership recognize that the police officers association cannot endorse Valdivia because of the widespread negative publicity about his behavior. Nevertheless, the officer said, the union collectively and its leadership believe that Valdivia will better serve both the police department and its officers than any of the six candidates running against him in this year’s race because of his vulnerability to a potential criminal inquiry or investigation. For that reason, the officer said, Valdivia can be relied upon to support the union in its efforts to secure raises and benefit enhancements in the future.
The union member added that Valdivia is not likely to need the union’s endorsement to remain in office, given his substantial fundraising advantage over the six other candidates, whose combined campaign funds are well under the more than $380,000 the officer said Valdivia now has in his campaign war chest.
Valdivia, who holds no voting power as mayor other than being empowered to break a tie and to veto votes of 4-to-3 or 3-to-2, needs more support than the one vote from Third Ward Councilman Juan Figueroa that he can now count on, the police officer said. For that reason, the Sentinel was told, the union has endorsed Terry Elliott over incumbent Sandra Ibarra in the Second Ward and Teresa Parra Craig over incumbent Fred Shorett in the Fourth Ward.
Moreover, the union, which endorsed Ibarra in 2018, has what its members say is another motivation to oppose Ibarra. In the aftermath of the June 2020 protests in San Bernardino that were sparked by the Minneapolis, Minnesota Police Department’s killing of George Floyd, Ibarra was critical of the San Bernardino Police Department’s response, saying it was not aggressive enough in protecting property and businesses that were under siege by protesters-turned-rioters-and-looters. She suggested that the department had too many upper management positions and too few uniformed officers on the streets. She said residents and business owners in the Second Ward had complained to her about “a lack of response out there.” She questioned whether the sergeants, lieutenants and captains in the department were “helping the people who work and live in the city.”
In response, the San Bernardino Police Officers Association in an open letter blasted Ibarra, saying she had “blatantly attacked the integrity of the men and women of the San Bernardino Police Department,” asserting “Ms. Ibarra’s claim that the San Bernardino Police Department was ineffective is… false.”
Questions have been raised, however, about the police union’s support of Elliott, whose residency status in the Second Ward has been challenged. A number of people have said that he is actually a resident of the Seventh Ward, and had changed his registration to an apartment he may or may not actually occupy in the Second Ward just prior to the filing deadline for candidacy.
Ibarra, upon whom Valdivia relied for support in the first six to eight months that she was in office following her 2018 election, parted ways with Valdivia by the fall of 2019. With only a few exceptions since that time, she has voted with First Ward Councilman Ted Sanchez, Shorett, Fifth Ward Councilman Ben Reynoso, Sixth Ward Councilwoman Kimberly Calvin and Seventh Ward Councilman Damon Alexander in opposition to the positions that Valdivia has taken on issues of substance or controversy.
The union is supporting Craig over Shorett in the Fourth Ward because Shorett has been, since even before Valdivia was mayor and was serving in the capacity of Third Ward Councilman from 2012 until 2018, Valdivia’s most implacable opponent.
The union is backing Ted Sanchez in his run for reelection in the First Ward against Gil Botello, whom he beat in 2018. The police officer who spoke with the Sentinel said that while it is accurate that Sanchez has been out of step with Valdivia on a significant number of issues for nearly three years, he has been a steady supporter of the police department and its officers. On matters relating to the department, the officer said, Sanchez can be relied upon to side with Valdivia and others who hold the police department in high regard. Further, it was said, it is not beyond reason that Sanchez might make a reappraisal of his currently testy relationship with Valdivia after the election.
The Sentinel’s effort to speak with Jon Plummer, the president of the San Bernardino Police Officers Association about the union’s endorsements and its potential knowledge about Elliott’s actual residency was unsuccessful.
The Sentinel is informed that Chris Jones, Valdivia’s political consultant, is working to promote the candidacies of Botello, Elliott and Craig.
-Mark Gutglueck

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