Milhiser Brought In As Interim While Rialto Continues Its Interminable City Manager Search

In what will be his seventh municipal management assignment, G. Michael Milhiser serve as Rialto’s interim city administrator following the abrupt departure of recently-hired David Carmany, it was announced on Tuesday, May 14.
Milhiser, the son of Ontario’s longtime city treasurer, followed his father’s advice to go into municipal management because, “there’s decent money to be made” in such work. As a young man in the 1970s, he acceded to his first city manager’s post, with the City of Montclair. Subsequently, he left for the more prestigious post of managing much larger neighboring Ontario. From there, he landed a post that city’s northern neighbor, Upland, where in 2005 he moved into an early retirement when he clashed with the City of Gracious Living’s then-mayor, John Pomierski.
Thereafter, beginning in 2007 when he was appointed to the board of the Monte Vista Water District, Milhiser contented himself with involvement in non-municipal government activity.
In 2017, he was induced to take on a temporary municipal management assignment after then-Adelanto Mayor Rich Kerr forced City Manager Gabriel Elliott to depart.
That interim stretch was followed by his signing on as the fill-in city manager after the 2019 departure of Ken Hunt as Fontana’s city manager. Then, in 2021, Milhiser was hired by the City of Grand Terrace on a temporary basis to replace G. Harold Duffey.
In all of his interim assignments, Milhiser, because he is a retiree under the California Public Employees Retirement System, pulling a $209,389.32 per year pension from the California Public Employee Retirement System based upon his work with Ontario, Upland and Montclair, was and is restricted from working more than 960 hours per governmental year, which runs from July 1 through June 30. In practical terms, this means that Milhiser or any other retired city manager coming into an interim assignment is practically restricted to working a six-month stint while working an average of just under 37 hours per week.
Milhiser is to be paid $170.67 per hour, translating to $27,727.31 per month, a substantial increase to the $17,916.67 per month he was paid in Grand Terrace.
The workload in 22.4-square mile Rialto, with its population of 102,965 will probably prove more intense than it was in 3.6-square mile, 13,000-population Grand Terrace.
Milhiser’s hiring was necessitated by the Rialto City Council’s recognition that it and the entity it had hired to vet the candidates who had applied for the city manager’s position in the aftermath of the mutual separation the city council had come to with its prior full-fledged city manager, Marcus Fuller, had carried out an inadequate evaluation and examination of the 37 competing applicants.
Carmany was hired and provided with a five-year contract in January on a 3-to-2 vote of the city council, with Councilmen Rafael Trujillo, Andy Carrizales and Councilman Joe Baca, Sr. prevailing and Councilman Ed Scott dissenting and Mayor Robertson abstaining because she had not been in attendance at the closed-door meeting of the council during which Carmany’s qualifications and suitability were discussed. A closer examination of Carmany’s history, however, revealed that in 2023, he had departed as West Covina’s city manager shortly after one of that city’s fire chiefs had obtained a $4.1 million settlement in a lawsuit based on Carmany having improperly terminated him. In the same timeframe, one of Covina’s former police chiefs had initiated a yet pending lawsuit against West Covina and Carmany over what he maintains was his improper termination.
Carmany had also departed from his post as city manager in Manhattan Beach in 2013 under questionable circumstances. Carmany’s three years in that city was marred by accusations made against him by his one-time administrative assistant who said he had directed her to alter financial figures in official municipal reports, shred documents and falsify financial disclosure forms and then retaliated against her and fired her when she refused. She sued and recovered $1.5 million from Manhattan Beach.
Earlier in his career, from 1997 until 2003, Carmany had worked for Pacifica, which fired him. He sued over that termination, recovering for himself $175,000.
Rialto and Carmany reached what was called a “mutual” accordation, in which he is to be paid a $119,329 severance.
Milhiser has had an eventful career as a city manager, bot before his retirement from Upland and afterward. He was with Ontario during a dynamic shift in which it was growing to become San Bernardino County’s most economically intact city, with a budget that dwarfs that of all 23 other municipalities in the county.
Nevertheless, scandal has attended several of the cities for which he was doing the planning, organizing, directing and controlling.
Milhiser was hired as city manager in Upland in June 1996 and remained there until March of 2005. During Milhiser’s last four years and four months as city manager in Upland, John Pomierski was that city’s mayor. Shortly after coming into office, Pomierski began taking bribes and kickbacks from individuals and companies with project applications as well as contract and franchise bids for work with the city. Those close to City Hall and observant onlookers knew the score. Pomierski sought to include city employees in the graft, providing them with raises and benefit increases to induce them to allow his depredations to continue uninterrupted. Milhiser, in his function as city manager, perhaps at first inadvertantly but later with some degree of cognizance, was enabling Pomierski in his running of a corrupt municipal regime. At some point no later than December 2004, Pomierski’s violations of the public trust became too much for him to bear, as in his elected role, the mayor was bending staff to his will in order to get it to cut corners for those who were doing business with the city and paying him off. When Milhiser signaled that he was no longer willing to go along with Pomierski’s machinations, Pomierski forced Milhiser into resigning as city manager, replacing him with Robb Quincey. Pomierski arranged to provide Milhiser with a $200,000 severance package when he departed in March 2005, which effectively bought Milhiser’s silence. Ultimately, in 2011 Pomierski was indicted by a federal grand jury on political corruption charges, convicted in 2012 and sentenced to two years in federal prison.
Beginning in February 2017, Milhiser served a five-month stint as Adelanto’s interim city manager after a series of city managers who preceeded him – including Cindy Herrera, Tom Thornton and Jim Hart – balked at efforts by then-Mayor Rich Kerr, City Councilman Jermaine Wright and City Councilman John Woodard to permit commercial marijuana operations in the city and then sought to shake applicants for cannabis operation licenses down. Kerr’s, Wright’s and Woodard’s depradations continued while Milhiser ran the city. Milhieser departed as Adelanto city manager later that year when Kerr arranged for Adelanto’s development director, Gabriel Elliott, to become city manager. But within three months, Kerr grew disenchanted with Elliott after he opened up back channel communications with the FBI in which he fingered Kerr and his council colleagues, Woodard and Wright, as being recipients of bribe money from multiple marijuana-related business applicants. In November Wright was indicted by a federal grand jury. In January, 2018, Milhiser was brought back to Adelanto to serve again as interim city manager. He served until May 2018. Throughout that time, Milhiser conformed city operations to the direction of Kerr and Woodard. Subsequently, Kerr was named in a federal indictment pertaining to taking marijuana industry-related bribes. Both Ker and Wright were convicted and are now serving times in federal penitentiaries.
In 2019, Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren, a longtime Pomierski associate, turned to Milhiser to temporarily serve in the capacity of city while she was ducking being implicated in a major scandal that grew out of her having forced the departure of Fontana’s long-serving city manager, Ken Hunt. Hunt had been with the City of Fontana since 1997 and in 2011 had been rewarded by Warren, shortly after she had become mayor, with a pay increase that made him San Bernardino County’s highest paid city manager. By 2016, Hunt’s pay was boosted even further, such that he was the third highest paid city manager in California. In 2018, he was the second highest paid city manager in California. When Hunt’s level of remuneration was challenged, Mayor Acquanetta Warren and three of her colleagues on the council were insistent that Hunt’s performance level was such that his pay was justified, and they indicated that they were hopeful of keeping him in place until 2026, which was five years beyond the duration of his contract which was set to elapse in 2021. Nevertheless, in 2019, Warren forced Hunt to resign after he was reported to have become aware of bribes she was accepting. To buy Hunt’s silence, Warren conferred upon him a $1.1 million severance package, and brought in Milhiser to replace Hunt. There have been suggestions that Milhiser, based on his experience in Upland with Pomierski, had an understanding of what was transpiring between Warren and Hunt. Milhiser served out his time with Fontana in 2020, ultimately to be replaced by Mark Denny. To whatever extent he became privy to any information implicative of Warren, just as he had with regard to Pomierski, Kerr, Wright and Woodard, Milhiser kept it to himself.
Warren so far has eluded being indicted, despite the intense pay-to-play ethos that surrounds her.
The Rialto City Council, which has gone through a litany of city managers in recent years, is obtaining in Milhiser an experienced municipal management professional whose discretion and ability to keep a confidence can be relied upon.
At the turn of the millennium, Joseph Guzetta was Rialto’s city manager. He was replaced in 2001 by Henry Garcia, who remained in place for a decade. Upon Garcia’s departure for greener grass in Moreno Valley, the city first tapped then-Redevelopment Director Robb Steel to oversee its operations and then conferred the acting city manager role on Police Chief Mark Kling. Mike Story was selected to serve as city manager thereafter. When Story left in December 2017, Ahmad Ansari, the city’s one-time public works director and city engineer, served as interim city administrator. There after, Rialto Fire Chief Sean Grayson took on the temporary assignment. In June 2019, Rod Foster, the former city manager of Colton and Laguna Niguel and the de facto city manager of Upland and Hesperia, was hired a city manager. In short order, however, Foster grew crosswise of Mayor Debra Robertson when she was hit with adverse publicity relating to a nonprofit entity that employed her daughter receiving funds and free lease accommodations through the city, and in October 2020, Foster voluntarily departed. Foster was temporarily replaced by Police Chief Kling, while the city council carried out a city manager recruitment that involved 85 applicants. In June 2021, Marcus Fuller, the assistant city manager of Palm Springs who had been Rialto’s public works director from 2012 to 2014, became city manager. Ultimately, however, that didn’t work out, and Fuller departed in January 2023. He was replaced by Arron Brown, the director of information technology in Palm Springs who had likewise acceded to deputy city manager in that city and then accompanied Fuller to Rialto as to serve as deputy city manager. In July 2023, the city called upon the at-that-point retired Garcia to return to Rialto, supplanting Brown, while it again sought a full-fledged city manager.
While Milhiser is in place, the city council will work toward recruiting and hiring another city manager.
-Mark Gutglueck

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