Contemplated H2O Routes To Indian Wells Valley Have Varying Financial & Environmental Impacts

Plans are advancing for importing water into the Indian Wells Valley. The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority is considering three possible pipeline routes to import water from the State Water Project to the region at the northwesternmost extreme of San Bernardino County and adjoining sections of Kern and Inyo counties.
The groundwater authority is a joint powers entity that has Kern County, Inyo County, San Bernardino County, the Indian Wells Valley Water District and the City of Ridgecrest as its voting members and the United States Navy and the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management as non-voting associate members of its governing board. Last year, the authority’s governing board consented to hiring Provost & Pritchard Consulting Group to carry out a study of the most efficient and economic way to convey imported water to the valley.
The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Basin Authority is proposing a $200-million, 50-mile-long pipeline system that would traverse mountainous desert terrain to bring water from the California Aqueduct in California City to Ridgecrest in Kern County, where it would be held in a massive storage tank operated by the Indian Wells Valley Water District. The water would be used to recharge the groundwater basin beneath Indian Wells Valley, which stretches across approximately 600 square miles of Kern, northeast San Bernardino and southeast Inyo counties.
The groundwater authority was formed in 2015, in the aftermath of a four-year running drought and a determination by the California Department of Water Resources that the Indian Wells Valley is one of the 21 basins throughout the State of California in critical overdraft. Previously, in 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, mandating water-saving measures throughout the state and requiring local agencies to draft plans to bring groundwater aquifers into balanced levels of pumping and recharge through the adoption of a groundwater sustainability plan. That balance is supposed to be achieved by 2040.
Based upon a survey of water usage patterns undertaken by an engineering consultant, Carlsbad-based Stetson Engineers, the authority and the Indian Wells Valley Water District sought to derive a strategy for both reducing water use in the valley and increasing groundwater recharge to reach a balance of both that will end the overdraft.
Any realistic assessment of the existing population, industrial, agricultural and commercial operations in the area and the decreases in the drafting of water from the regional aquifer that could be achieved through efficientization, conservation, increased recycling of water and perhaps the minimization of evaporation demonstrated that it would not be possible to achieve by the target year of 2040, as is mandated by the state, a balance of natural water recharge to the region from rainfall and the amount of water usage, such that the depletion of the aquifer will end. According to the surveys completed to provide the data needed to formulate the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Sustainability Plan, the average natural annual recharge in the basin is 7,650 acre-feet while the annual drafting of groundwater in the region by all entities is three to four times that amount.
Accordingly, staff and the board of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority long ago concluded that the sought-after goal of bringing the region’s water table out of a state of overdraft can only be achieved by the importation of water from outside the valley and injecting it deep into the ground to avoid evaporation and replenish water lost from excessive production.
Three years ago, after the survey of water use by well owners both collectively and individually was made, the authority assigned water use allowances to the region’s well owners. Excess use fees, referred to as augmentation fees, were formulated for application to those well owners who pump above their allowances as well as on farmers who go beyond their respective share of the water supply set aside for agricultural usage. The authority intends to use money generated in this way to purchase imported water and pay for the infrastructure needed to bring in the imported water.
That water is to come from the State Water Project, imported to the southern part of the state by the California Aqueduct.
At present, however, there is no means of conveyance of water that would come out of the California Aqueduct to Indian Wells Valley, meaning a pipeline will need to be constructed.
Provost & Pritchard provides civil engineering, water resource management, environmental, structural engineering, hydrogeologic, GIS, surveying, caves and tunnels expertise, planning, and construction management consulting services. According to the company’s principal engineer, Jeff Davis, the authority has essentially three options with regard to the route the pipeline should take from California City to Ridgecrest, one of which he termed a west alignment, a second he called a central alignment, and a third he referred to as an east alignment.
Given geographical and topographical factors, the difficulty of the terrain to be encountered, along with the pre-existence of certain infrastructure and utilities in some areas and the lack of such necessities in other others along with complications or a lack thereof with regard to securing right-of-way along certain paths, Davis said there are relative advantages and disadvantages in multiple respects to each of the three paths the pipeline might take.
In each case, the pipeline will need to traverse the Rand and El Paso mountains. Of consideration is that the pipeline might end up disturbing critical habitat for certain species which dwell in the desert, Davis said, requiring care in how the pipeline is designed, placed and constructed.
The west alignment would run north from California city on land next to Neuralia Road and bend west through Jawbone Canyon and resume a northerly direction crossing U.S. Route 14 to Ridgecrest. An advantage to this course is that it would replicate in spans an existing pathway for a large Los Angeles Department of Water and Power water pipeline and not conflict with any critical habitat for the endangered desert tortoise. Nevertheless, the west alignment would require bringing in electricity or other utilities to areas where lifting stations are needed as well as traversing no fewer than four major roads or rail lines.
The center alignment similarly goes north on Neuralia Road but cuts east between the Rand and El Paso mountains, continuing until U.S. Route 395, at which point it makes a 90 degree turn north all the way to Ridgecrest.
This route does not entail having to deal with the Rand and El Paso mountains, a striking advantage. Moreover, it parallels existing roadways. The downside is that it interferes with the critical habitat of some species of animals that live in the desert and will require bringing in utilities to certain portions of the route.
The east alignment follows 20 Mule Team Parkway out of California City and towards U.S. Route 395. It then follows U.S. Route 395 north all the way to Ridgecrest.
This pathway is advantageous from the standpoint that it parallels existing infrastructure virtually the entire distance, such that the construction can be readily undertaken. It would, however, require two sets of lifting stations, one to boost the water up one steep incline over the Rand Mountains, at which point it would then follow a downgrade into a valley between the Rand and El Paso Mountains and then climb once more over the El Paso Mountains. Like the center alignment, it would entail some interference with critical habitat for certain desert species.
-Mark Gutglueck

Woman Kills Man Over Fender Bender 59-year-old Jonathan Mauk’s life was cut short on February 5 when 36-year-old used a gun she was carrying to shoot him after a minor collision in the parking lot of the San Bernardino Walmart.

Dash Thirty Dash Mel Hodell, 102, Local Newspaper Publisher

Mel Hodell, the former publisher of the Montclair Tribune, the Upland News and the Cucamonga News, has died.
One of the last of the generation of community builders in San Bernardino County’s West End who were shaped by their participation in World War II, Hodell was 102 when succumbed from natural causes on January 31.
Hodell led a dynamic existence in more than one venue, those being a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot providing crucial logistics support for Chiang Kai-Shek in his resistance of the Japanese invasion of China, his time as a young journalist, his raising of a family, then, penultimately, as a newspaper publisher and, ultimately as a newspaper broker.
Melvin Ernest Hodell born in Oak Park, Illinois in 1921. He and his younger sister were raised by his single mother, both in Chicago and Detroit.
Hodell acknowledged having developed a poor attitude as a kid, living in a residence with his mother, grandmother and sister that was the anterior to a hair salon where his mother worked.
He eventually found purpose working as a teenaged copy boy and then copyeditor for the Detroit Times and Detroit News. In the role of a copy boy, he would pick up from this reporter or that a sheaf of carbon copies on butcher papers of his most recent tentatively typed story and run one of each to the copy editor’s desk, the sub editor’s room, the editor’s desk and to the editor, crying “copy” at each stop. Eventually, at the age of 17, he was promoted to the position of copy editor, leaving that post to become a student at Northwestern University.
At Northwestern he majored in liberal arts, with a minor in journalism. In June 1944, after graduating from Northwestern with a bachelor’s degree, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps as a second lieutenant. Following basic training and flight school, he was sent to the China Burma India Theater on December 9, 1944 as part of the Army Air Corps Air Transport Command’s India China Division, then commanded by General Earl Hoag, taking part in the effort to supply the Chinese forces under Chiang Kai-Shek as well as the United States Army Air Forces in China.
This required that the pilots take their planes, primarily DC-3s, C-39a, C-46s, C-47s and C-53s from their base in Assam, India over the “hump” that is, the Himalaya Mountains to Kunming, China.
The supply effort had undergone multiple permutations prior to Hodell’s arrival, having started out as an operation of the Assam–Burma–China Command in April 1942, when the Japanese blocked the Burma Road, followed by the mission carried out by the India-China Ferry Command of the Tenth Air Force, which initiated in July 1942, and was superseded by the Air Transport Command’s India-China Wing’s effort as of December 1942. When the Air Transport Command reorganized its China supply effort as a function of the India-China Division in July 1944, Hodell was assigned to its flight crews as a pilot.
The Himalaya range includes eight of the ten highest peaks in the world, including ones of 29,035 feet, 27,940 feet, 27,766 feet, 26,906 feet, 25,557 feet, 25,190 feet, 24,012 feet, 23,736 feet, 23,440 feet, 23,389 feet, 22,349 feet and about 16 others over 19,685. In making the flights, the pilots generally flew at about 18,500 feet through a “groove” between the surrounding peaks where the highest land was about 16,000 feet above sea level.
The C-47 “Goony Bird,” and C-46 “Dumbo” that Hodell flew were relatively reliable planes in the environment where they were developed – North America – but were put to the test flying at high altitudes over the Himalayas, particularly during winter months, when the plane’s engines and other systems would freeze. Carrying heavy payloads that had to get off the ground and then climb to considerable heights put strain on the engines, which accordingly were in need of constant maintenance.
On occasion, Japanese fighter pilots eluded the American fighters seeking to prevent them from molesting the transport planes, and a few American transport pilots were sent to an early grave as a result. Navigation was a particular problem. Given the terrain the planes were flying over and the sudden onset of the war, many of the charts used by pilots as drafted were unreliable. There were no radio navigation facilities to speak of and meteorological data in that day and age was nonexistent or of questionable validity. In certain frigid conditions, turbulence experienced while flying over the Himalayas resulted in wings falling off of the planes.
Planes and crews involved in the Assam–Burma–China Command, India-China Ferry Command, India-China Wing and India-China Division, all of which were cargo planes, suffered the highest rate of losses among any non-combatant air fleets of the war. In total, the effort resulted in 594 aircraft lost, missing, or written off, with 1,659 personnel killed or missing, such that one out of three pilots involved in the missions perished.
The planes delivered all order of equipment, armament, weapons, ammunition and bombs, as well as troops, beasts of burden and food. The most hazardous payloads – ones which were frequently carried – was aviation fuel, high octane kerosene intended to keep Claire Chennault’s “Flying Tigers,” and later the U.S. 14th Air Force fully engaged against the Japanese in China. The fuel was of such high-octane that it could ignite or explode very readily. On the 625-mile flights, the pilots and co-pilots had to withstand severe cold, indeed freezing temperatures for more than three hours of the flights as the use of the only available source of warmth, propane-fueled open flame heaters presented too great of a danger, given the cargo they were carrying.
Aluminum Dreams offers a description of one flight in which Hodell, co-piloting a cargo plane, was told by the pilot of the no longer climbing aircraft that he should ready himself to bail out before the plane flew into the side of an oncoming mountain. The plane, with its propellers and wings iced over, was certain to crash, as it could not power itself over the 16,000-foot altitude it needed to achieve. Yet jumping from the plane offered little more prospect of survival than staying in the plane, as Hodell would most certainly find himself in an unknown and uncharted spot in the snow-covered Himalayas upon parachuting to the ground. As it turned out, the door out of which they were to exit or jettison the cargo in a desperate ploy to lighten the craft was also sealed in ice, and would not open. As if by divine providence, the plane encountered a warm air updraft, lifting it to an altitude that allowed it to clear the pass through the mountains and which caused the ice to slide off the propellers.
The atmosphere in which the planes flew was in stark contrast to the oppressively sultry heat in Assam during the late spring and summer months.
Hodell flew 65 cargo delivery trips from Assam to Kunming, logging 553 air hours over the Hump. He remained in India well into 1946.
With the war over and his days as a Hump pilot having come to an end, Hodell was discharged, on in the parlance of the day, demobilized. He returned stateside, where he again matriculated at Northwestern, using the GI Bill to defray the cost of his education so that he did not need to work part-time and attend class part-time. He was enrolled in Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, from which he obtained his master’s degree. While at Medill, he began as a reporter and then became the night editor and ultimately the managing editor at the Daily Northwesterner, where Virginia Gum of Mississippi, another journalism student, was writing.
Hodell and Gum graduated from Northwestern in 1947 and married, embarking on professional journalistic careers together. They were stringers at first with the Chicago City News and then moved into writing positions with the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison. After a year there, they moved to Merced, California in 1949 and remained in the Golden State for nearly three years, during which time they started a family. In 1952, they moved to Naperville, Illinois, where Hodell bought that city’s newspaper, the Clarion.
After publishing the Clarion for six years, Hodell sold it and moved his family to California in 1958, to the Inland Empire and ultimately to Upland. The family would ultimately take up residence in a grand Spanish Colonial style home located at 1388 North Euclid Avenue.
Hodell bought the Upland News from Vernon Paine on October 1, 1958. On September 1, 1960, he acquired the Montclair Tribune. He founded the Cucamonga News on December 10, 1961. In 1967, he sold the three newspapers to the Bonita Publishing Company. In the latter years of Hodell’s ownership of the Upland News, he employed Jack Harper as the paper’s editor.
The Upland News ceased publication in 1974. The Montclair Tribune ceased publication in 1977. The Cucamonga News was subsumed by the Highlander, which discontinued publication in the 1990s.
Subsequent to his sale of the News, the Tribune and the News, Hodell became a newspaper broker, reprsenting both buyers and sellers of newspapers during the next 23 years, as the printed newspaper industry was contracting. He retired following the death of Virginia in 2001.
He maintained an active interest in journalism and was a Sentinel subscriber.
In 2009, the Department of Defense, some 64 years late, conferred upon him the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service during the war.
In 2010, the California Newspaper Publishers Association bestowed upon Hodell the Philip N. McCombs Achievement Award and named him as a member of its hall of fame.
Mark Gutglueck

February 16 SBC Sentinel Legal Notices

ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE FOR CHANGE OF NAME CASE
NUMBER CIVSB2400577
TO ALL INTERESTED PERSONS: Petitioner LIZETTE RAE NOLA-SMITH filed with this court for a decree changing names as follows:
LIZETTE RAE NOLA-SMITH to LIZETTE RAE SMITH
THE COURT ORDERS that all persons interested in this matter appear before this court at the hearing indicated below to show cause, if any, why the petition for change of name should not be granted. Any person objecting to the name changes described above must file a written objection that includes the reasons for the objection at least two court days before the matter is scheduled to be heard and must appear at the hearing to show cause why the petition should not be granted. If no written objection is timely filed, the court may grant the petition without a hearing.
Notice of Hearing:
Date: 03/05/2024
Time: 08:30 AM
Department: S32
The address of the court is Superior Court of California, County of San Bernardino San Bernardino District-Civil Division 247 West Third Street, San Bernardino, CA 92415 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a copy of this order be published in the San Bernardino County California, once a week for four successive weeks prior to the date set for hearing of the petition.
Filed: 01/23/2024
Matthew Stutte, Deputy Clerk of the Court
Judge of the Superior Court: Gilbert G. Ochoa
Published in the San Bernardino County Sentinel on January 26 and February 2, 9 and 16, 2024.

 

ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE FOR CHANGE OF NAME CASE
NUMBER CIVSB2400568
TO ALL INTERESTED PERSONS: Petitioner FRANCOIS MARTIN CAMPBELL filed with this court for a decree changing names as follows:
FRANCOIS MARTIN CAMPBELL to FRANCOIS MARTIN McGINNIS
THE COURT ORDERS that all persons interested in this matter appear before this court at the hearing indicated below to show cause, if any, why the petition for change of name should not be granted. Any person objecting to the name changes described above must file a written objection that includes the reasons for the objection at least two court days before the matter is scheduled to be heard and must appear at the hearing to show cause why the petition should not be granted. If no written objection is timely filed, the court may grant the petition without a hearing.
Notice of Hearing:
Date: 03/05/2024
Time: 08:30 AM
Department: S30
The address of the court is Superior Court of California, County of San Bernardino San Bernardino District-Civil Division 247 West Third Street, San Bernardino, CA 92415 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a copy of this order be published in the San Bernardino County California, once a week for four successive weeks prior to the date set for hearing of the petition.
Filed: 01/23/2024
Sergio Villanueva, Deputy Clerk of the Court
Judge of the Superior Court: Gilbert G. Ochoa
Published in the San Bernardino County Sentinel on January 26 and February 2, 9 and 16, 2024.

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Do You Know This Man?

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department investigators after two weeks have yet to identify one of the six shooting victims found in a remote desert area roughly three miles west of Shadow Mountain Ghost Town on January 23.
They are seeking the public’s assistance in determining who he is.
The man was in the company of five others near the dirt road intersections of Shadow Mountain Road and Lessing Avenue approximately three-and-a half miles west of Highway 395, 10 miles northeast of the center of El Mirage, 12 miles west of Helendale, 15 miles west of Silver Lakes when they were gunned down in the early evening hours of Tuesday January 23. The scene of the killings is some 18 miles north-northwest of Adelanto and 26 miles northwest of Victorville and 50 miles north of San Bernardino.
Five of those killed have been identified by the authorities and four of their names have been publicly disclosed. They are Baldemar Mondragon-Albarran, 34, of Adelanto; and two brothers, Franklin Noel Bonilla, 22, and Kevin Dariel Bonilla, 25, both of Hesperia; and Jose Ruelas-Calderon, 45, of El Mirage
The identity of a fifth has been ascertained, but his name is being withheld pending notification of his next of kin.
Detectives have not been able to determine the name or any other specific identifying data with regard to a sixth. He is described as a Hispanic male, 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighing 142 pounds with medium length, curly black hair, and brown eyes. The sheriff’s office provided a wide latitude in age spread for him, saying he was estimated to be between 30 and 60 years old.
There were some other physical characteristics that can be applied.
He has a large surgical scar on the anterior right forearm that extends to the upper arm, a surgical plate in the right forearm, a large linear scar on the posterior right elbow and forearm, an irregular shaped scar on the anterior left forearm/elbow area, and a linear scar on the right thigh. Additionally, He has a tattoo of the word “Gio” or “Gia” on the left side of the chest.
The department has provided a photo of the man and snapshots of his arm and chest in the hope that someone who knew him will come forward to make a definitive identification.
Those who might have any relevant information can be of help by contacting Detective Michelle Del Rio, Specialized Investigations Division at (909) 890-4904, or Deputy Coroner Carol Fostore at (909) 387-2978.
The five victims other than Franklin Bonilla were found near the Lessing Avenue and Shadow Mountain Road intersection, along with two vehicles, a blue Chevrolet Blazer SUV with Oregon plates and a silver Dodge Caravan van with a rear license plate numbered 9HUW954 bearing a blue 2024 expiration tag. One of those five bodies was found inside the Chevrolet Trailblazer. The other four were on the ground, one close to the Dodge Caravan. All four of those bodies had been burned to some degree, two more thoroughly than the others. An apparent attempt, one which was ultimately unsuccessful, had been made before the sheriff’s department arrived to set the Blazer afire. The body inside the Trailblazer had not been burned.
According to the sheriff’s department, at 8:16 p.m. Tuesday, January 23, the gravely wounded Franklin Bonilla managed to call 911 and, speaking in Spanish, told a sheriff’s dispatcher he had been shot. He was unable to provide his exact location beyond stating it was near Adelanto. Shortly thereafter, the call went dead. Using the geographic positioning data emanating from Bonilla’s phone, his position was determined to be roughly a quarter of mile from the Lessing Avenue and Shadow Mountain Road intersection.
A California Highway Patrol helicopter was immediately dispatched to the area and was instrumental in helping the first arriving deputy at 8:40 p.m. and then others who swiftly followed to locate the bodies of the victims. It was readily apparent that all of the victims had been shot. The Chevy Trailblazer was riddled with gunfire.
In short order detectives with the sheriff’s specialized investigations division, homicide detail, responded and assumed the investigation, one which began in earnest after sunrise on January 24. Through extensive investigation, investigators determined the victims had arranged to meet at the location for a marijuana transaction. Five subjects, identified as Toniel Baez-Duarte, Mateo Baez-Duarte, Jose Nicolas Hernandez Sarabia, Jose Gregorio Hernandez Sarabia, and Jose Manuel Burgos Parra, arrived at the location and for reasons still under investigation shot the six victims.
By Sunday, January 28, 2024, investigators had obtained multiple search warrants that were then serve in a coordinated and almost simultaneous fashion in the Town of Apple Valley, Adelanto and the Los Angeles County area of Pinon Hills, at which time Toniel Baez-Duarte, Mateo Baez-Duarte, Jose Nicolas Hernandez Sarabia, Jose Gregorio Hernandez Sarabia, and Parra were taken into custody.
In the course of serving the warrants and effectuating the arrests, deputies and detectives seized eight firearms along with additional evidence relevant to the case. The department’s scientific investigations division has already forensically processed much of the evidence, tying some of it into the murders.
The Baez-Duarte and Hernandez Sarabia brothers and Parra have been charged with six counts of Penal Code Section 187 murder and all five entered not guilty pleas at their arraignments on January 30 and February 1.
Both Sergeant Michael Warrick, who headed the specialized investigations division/homicide detail investigation into the killings and Sheriff Shannon Dicus have stated that those responsible for the murders are limited to the five suspects in custody.
“We are confident we have arrested all the suspects in this case,” Warrick said.
“I can guarantee you we got the five right people,” Dicus, who has made a thorough review of the investigative file on the matter, said.
-Mark Gutglueck

AMR Sues San Bernardino County Over Ambulance Franchise Discontinuation

San Bernardino County officials and their attorneys are trading notes with their counterparts in Sonoma County in the aftermath of American Medical Response filing a suit in federal court alleging San Bernardino County, its board of supervisors and two of its interrelated or associated joint public safety agencies engaged in a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act when it the board in December award the franchise for emergency medical response throughout most of the county’s desert region to an amalgam of one of those public safety agencies and an Arizona-based ambulance company.
Colorado-based American Medical Response, known as AMR, operates as an ambulance service provider in 40 states as well as the District of Colombia. Some of its corporate predecessors were providing ambulance service in San Bernardino County in the early 1970s. On January 1, 1981 AMR was given an exclusive operating contract in a wide swathe of the desert by the Inland Counties Emergency Management Agency, which oversees emergency medical response in San Bernardino, Inyo and Mono counties and licenses emergency medical service providers – including hospitals and ambulance companies – in those regions. AMR maintained that exclusive contract for providing services ambulance service in San Bernardino County’s desert for more than four decades. Though the Inland Counties Emergency Management Agency, known by its acronym ICEMA is a three-county joint powers authority, county officials in Inyo and Mono counties have empowered the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to act as the ICEMA board.
Whereas in previous years, the AMR contract was merely “rolled over” in what the county referred to as “a grandfathered process,” in late 2022 county officials began to look toward what action it would take with regard to the expiration or continuation of the contract. On December 20, 2022, the county released a request for proposals – a solicitation of bids – inviting prospective providers to provide ground ambulance service in 11 of the county’s 26 exclusive operating areas.
Responding to the request were AMR and Consolidated Fire Agencies, known by its acronym CONFIRE, a joint powers authority which provides communications, dispatch, computer information systems support and geographic location information to its nine member agencies – the Apple Valley Fire Protection District, Chino Valley Independent Fire District, the Colton Fire Department, the Loma Linda Fire Department, the Rancho Cucamonga Fire Department, the Redlands Fire Department, the Rialto Fire Department, the San Bernardino County Fire District and the Victorville Fire Department – and four contract agencies – the Big Bear Fire Department, the Montclair Fire Department, the Running Springs Fire District and the San Manuel Fire Department.
In its response, AMR stated it could commit 12,889 weekly unit hours to respond to calls, had 111 ambulances available during peak system demand and stationed throughout the service area backed with 39 additional available ambulances available to meet surges. It emphasized that it was the current provider of the services with vehicle infrastructure in place and 10 managers and 18 field supervisors and a medical director familiar with the comprehensive needs of the service area. The company offered rates of $3,958 for both basic life support and advanced life support, $2,834 to carry out an interfacility transport, and $4,392 for critical care transport.
In its response, CONFIRE said it would subcontract with Priority Ambulance, which also serves Maricopa County in Arizona and therefore could devote 10,371 weekly unit hours to respond to calls, had 93 ambulances available at peak demand, with 45 additional ambulances available to meet surges throughout the service area, that it will establish ambulance staging locations, put on-board personnel in place and acquire vehicles upon receiving the contract. It offered an assurance that it has leadership and management to meet the demands of providing the service, including nine managers and 18 operations supervisors as well as a medical director and that it controls the regional emergency services communication system. Its proposed rates for its advance life support service were $3,547 for non-emergency and interfacility transfer, $4,053 for emergency transport, $2,533 for non-emergency basic life transport and $3,167 for emergency basic life transport and CCT $5,067 for critical care transport.
What the county referred to as an “independent review panel” made up of four evaluators individually scored each proposal on 14 key areas – system requirements, response time standards, clinical performance, deployment plans, vehicles, medical supplies and equipment, personnel, hospital and community requirements, disaster preparedness/response, quality management, electronic patient care reports, centralized emergency medical dispatch center, financial and administrative requirements qualifications, and future system enhancements – for the purpose of making a recommendation to the county for final negotiation of contract terms. The total cumulative scores, against a standard with 1,720 points maximum, favored AMR, which registered 1,519 total points against 1,515 points for CONFIRE.
Based on what the county characterized as the negligible difference between the scores, it provided AMR and CONFIRE with notice to enter into contract negotiations with the county and that the final contract approval rested with the board of supervisors.
After those negotiations concluded, the county purchasing division on October 27, 2023, emailed AMR a notice of intent to recommend that it be awarded a contract extension from the time its current contract expires on March 31 from April 1, 2024 through September 30, 2024 to allow CONFIRE to get prepared to take on the contract for an initial term from October 1, 2024 through September 30, 2029.
AMR lodged a protest, alleging the county had failed to follow the selection procedures, did not adhere to requirements specified in the request for proposal, had awarded the contract to the entity which had lost in the competition and that it had otherwise violated state and/or federal law. The county’s purchasing agent, Ariel Gill, who reviewed and considered the protest and notified AMR of its decision to deny the protest.
At the December 5 board of supervisors meeting, a motion by Supervisor Jesse Armendarez seconded by Supervisor Curt Hagman to deny the protest from American Medical Response and schedule a vote to consider awarding the contract to Consolidated Fire Agencies and its private subcontractor Priority Ambulance passed by a unanimous vote. During the December 5 meeting, AMR was represented by a spokesman who neglected to identify himself and Mike Rice, the company’s vice president of operations, who made no comments. The unidentified spokesperson said AMR offered “stability, performance and clinical excellence. AMR is in the best position to take this into the future. We’re fully integrated with the fire departments, public health, behavioral health, the communities we serve.” He emphasized that AMR had a “depth of resources, history of performance, experience and expertise, disaster response capability and represented a lower risk of liability to the cities and county than have public agencies providing ambulance service. He said that “AMR meets or exceeds all response [time] standards” and featured as part of its vehicle fleet “all-wheel-drive units in key areas that need that… and a disaster command vehicle.” He said the company had helicopter ambulances and was “financially strong” with an established sustainable model.”
CONFIRE was represented by Rancho Cucamonga City Councilwoman Lynn Kennedy, the chairwoman of the CONFIRE Board of Directors, as well as Rancho Cucamonga Fire Chief Mike McCliman and CONFIRE Chief Nathan Cook. Lynne Kennedy said what CONFIRE was offering something that “will result in increased resources, decreased response times and a delivery model that includes private/public partnership, a private partnership with Priority Ambulance that has the capacity to serve our county and the public partnership that crosses the continuum of care, making sure that every single resident receives the right care at the right time on time every time without exception. It is going to be transformational in three areas. It is going to improve our service delivery, establish an efficient system and invest both financial and human resources back into the system.”
County officials reasoned that both CONFIRE and AMR performed, for all intents and purposes, equally well in the evaluation of their proposed offerings of service. The county also figured that a state law which encouraged local agencies to develop emergency medical transportation capability dovetailed with San Bernardino County Policy 1104, which calls for making a determination of “best value” when entering into such contracts, favored CNIRE over AMR. Assembly Bill 1705, passed in 2019, allows an ambulance service provider operated by the state, a county, a city, a county and city or cities, fire protection district, special district, community services district, health care district, or a federally recognized Indian tribe – in short a governmental entity – to receive a supplemental Medi-Cal reimbursement when the patient being transported is a Medi-Cal recipient, in addition to the rate of payment the provider would otherwise receive for those services. By applying the advantage inherent in Assembly Bill 1705, which was put in place to facilitate local agencies develop in-house ambulance/emergency medical transportation capability, the county would be able to capture those supplemental Medi-Cal payments, while AMR, as a private sector provider, would not be eligible for such reimbursements. Thus, the added “value” of the arrangement involving CONFIRE dictated the county contract with it, according to county officials.
“Of the two proposers that we heard today, CONFIRE JPA [ joint powers authority] may be eligible for this funding, but only CONFIRE JPA,” Chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors Dawn Rowe said on December 5 in articulating the rationale for contracting with CONFIRE.
Rice, who had remained silent during the company’s public presentation on December 5, allowing AMR’s anonymous spokesman to do all the talking, lost his reticence after the board of supervisors had made its decision.
“The decision made by the county Board of Supervisors does not align with the best interests of the community and the patients of this community,” Rice said. “The proposal selected by the board puts 29 fewer ambulances a day on the road than what AMR proposed. The community and our hard-working employees will be negatively impacted by the decision today. Given the circumstances, AMR is left with no choice but to explore all available options, including legal recourse, in response to the board’s actions.”
On February 2, AMR made good on that threat, with the attorneys Stephen Larson, Jonathan Phillips, Mehrunisa Ranjha and Benjamin Falstein filing on behalf of AMR a lawsuit in Riverside Federal Court that names the County of San Bernardino, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, the Inland Counties Emergency Medical Agency and Consolidated Fire Agencies as defendants and Consolidated Fire Agencies as the real party in interest.
At the very core of the lawsuit and the entire contretemps involving CONFIRE and AMR is the concept of a monopoly and where and under what circumstances they are tolerated and upon whom or what entity they are to be conferred. The Sherman Antitrust Act was a law passed by the U.S. Congress in 1890 to prohibit, trusts, monopolies and cartels and thereby promote the economic fairness and competition and to regulate interstate commerce. According to the Act, its intent was to “preserve free and unfettered competition as the rule of trade for the benefit of consumers. There are, nonetheless, circumstances in which exceptions to the act’s provisions are considered to be legitimate and are allowed. As pertains to the matter in question, that exception would be what is termed “an exclusive operating zone.”
The Inland Counties Emergency Management Agency and its governing board, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, oversee issues pertaining to emergency medical response not just within the expanse of 20,105-square mile San Bernardino County but in 10,227-square mile Inyo County and 3,132-square mile Mono County, a combined area that is larger than 12 different states, including Maine, South Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Hawaii, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island separately and larger than Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New Jersey combined.
There are extensive expanses within all three of those counties which are only sparsely populated but which still need, from time to time, emergency medical response. Thus, there are swathes of territory in each where one ambulance company has not only primacy but a virtual monopoly in that it, and only it, is authorized and licensed to function there under normal circumstances. The ostensible rationale for granting these monopolies is that operating ambulances is an expensive proposition, not to mention one that is crucial to public health and safety. Competition between ambulance companies has the potential, so the reasoning goes, of driving down the prices those companies charge to the point that their operations will not be profitable enough for them to remain in business. Upon these ambulance companies going out of business, the public would be put into a position where there would be insufficient emergency medical transportation service available to ensure public safety. In this way, those arrangements – the exclusive operating zones – have been established, which have “immunity” from the Sherman Antitrust Act.
Some have long disputed that the exclusive operating zones are necessary, and they assert they are rather a ploy by which county politicians have further inculcated a pay-to-play ethos into the county’s governmental function, with the exclusive operating permits being granted to the companies or company proving to be the most generous in handing out political donations to incumbent politicians. Among those critics of exclusive operating zones are some who maintain the monopolistic system has long endangered public safety. One of those was the county’s firefighters’ union, known as Local 935, which a decade ago suggested the exclusive operating approach has on occasion created critical shortages in the High Desert’s ambulance transport system.
For years, the county’s decision-makers ignored those warnings. The December 2022 decision to put the franchise contract out to bid by seek a so-called request for proposals was what led to the submission of competing bids between CONFIRE and AMR.
According to Larson, Phillips, Ranjha and Falstein, AMR was the “exclusive ‘grandfathered’ ambulance provider to the county” and the “county departed from this practice and for the first time published a state-approved request for proposals” to solicit entities interested in competing for the franchise.
The “requirements set forth in the request for proposals RFP were strict,” according to Larson, Phillips, Ranjha and Falstein and under the rules of the competition the county was “required to award the exclusive contract to the bidder with the highest scoring proposal. Moreover, any provider whose proposal failed to meet the minimum qualifications specified in the request for proposals could not be considered at all.”
Despite what was supposed be a highly regulated and precisely controlled competition, according to Larson, Phillips, Ranjha and Falstein, the “county was willing to disregard this mandatory process in order to award the contract to its pre-ordained preferred provider – CONFIRE – regardless of whether it had submitted the best bid. In other words, the process actually employed by the county was not truly competitive at all.”
Larson, Phillips, Ranjha and Falstein maintain “The independent, non-biased review committee administering the request for proposals process gave AMR’s proposal a higher score than CONFIRE’s proposal based on scoring criteria set forth in the RFP.” Furthermore, according to Larson, Phillips, Ranjha and Falstein, [T]he board of supervisors voted to award the contract to the losing bidder, CONFIRE. By negotiating with and ultimately awarding the contract to an ambulance services provider with an inferior bid, the county and its board of supervisors acted contrary to the RFP and state law—and, consequently, outside the narrow confines of their antitrust immunity.”
According to Larson, Phillips, Ranjha and Falstein, “CONFIRE’s proposal should not have been considered to begin with, as it failed to fulfill basic minimum requirements mandated by the request for proposals. Nevertheless, the county and
board of supervisors deliberately disregarded the glaring deficiencies in CONFIRE’s proposal when they allowed it to move forward in the process and ultimately decided to award CONFIRE the next exclusive ambulance services contract.”
Under the State of California’s Emergency Medical Services Act, the state’s
Emergency Medical Services Authority oversees and regulates a local emergency medical services authority’s administration of local emergency medical service programs. In San Bernardino County, the Inland Counties Emergency Management Agency was that local emergency medical services authority responsible for planning, evaluating, and implementing the emergency medical system and its personnel, facilities and equipment. Under the State of California’s Emergency Medical Services Act, the local emergency services agency – not the county – is “the agency, department, or office having primary responsibility for administration of emergency medical services in a county.” According to Larson, Phillips, Ranjha and Falstein “Counties and local emergency services agencies accordingly may not share statutory powers and duties.” But Larson, Phillips, Ranjha and Falstein maintain the county did so and thereby engaged in a conflict of interest which violated California law and abridged their client’s rights. “A local emergency services agency must develop—and submit to the California Emergency Medical Services Authority an annual emergency medical services plan consistent with California law,” according to Larson, Phillips, Ranjha and Falstein. “[A] narrow exception to antitrust liability exists where anticompetitive conduct at the local level is authorized by a state law establishing a clearly articulated and affirmatively expressed state policy to displace competition. The request for proposals specifies that the review committee would only recommend the highest-scoring bidder for final negotiation of contract terms with the county. Negotiations may only commence with the next highest-rated bidder if the county terminates negotiations with the highest-scoring bidder for failure to negotiate.”
AMR did not refuse to negotiate and it did everything it was supposed to do and competed fair and square, according to Larson, Phillips, Ranjha and Falstein
“AMR’s proposal received the highest score based on the scoring metrics specified
in the RFP,” the lawsuit states.
AMR protested and its protest was denied, according to the suit, while the county and the county board of supervisors maintained the supervisors had discretion in the selection process that allowed its members to collectively “disregard the evaluation prepared by the non-biased review committee and further empowered the county and board of supervisors to disregard the request for proposal’s mandatory requirement that only the highest scoring proposal would receive consideration for award of the contract.”
The board of supervisors, as articulated by Chairwoman Rowe at the December 5 meeting, according to Larson, Phillips, Ranjha and Falstein, “did not consider the fact that the ‘highest scoring proposal’ is necessarily the proposal that ‘demonstrates the best value and meets the needs of the County.’ In other words, there was already a procedure for selecting the proposal that demonstrates the best value and that meets the needs of the county – and that procedure is
established by the criteria set forth in the state-approved request for proposals [process]. The board of supervisors, however, took the position that it was permitted to conduct its own evaluation of these criteria – notwithstanding the non-biased review committee [had] already done precisely that.”
According to Larson, Phillips, Ranjha and Falstein, an illustration of how the board of supervisors engaged in a “complete abdication of its duty to adhere to the request for proposals requirements” consisted of the board’s “cursory vote to deny AMR’s protest.” In doing so, according to Larson, Phillips, Ranjha and Falstein, the board of supervisors engaged in a violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act, California’s open public meeting law, which requires action the governing board of a public agency takes to be previewed on an agenda published at least 72 hours in advance of any such board meeting at which a vote is to take place.
“AMR’s protest was never included in the December 5, 2023 agenda,” according to Larson, Phillips, Ranjha and Falstein.
What is perhaps the suit’s most significant feature is Larson’s, Phillips’, Ranjha’s and Falstein’s contention that CONFIRE and its private sector partner are not qualified under the county’s own specified standards to fulfill or hold the franchise contract, those being that the service providers have provided emergency ambulance service to a population of at least one million residents over a period of at least five of the previous seven years.
According to Larson, Phillips, Ranjha and Falstein, “[I]t is undisputable that CONFIRE, as well as its private subcontractor, Priority, had failed to meet the basic requirements set forth in the request for proposal. Because of this failure, disqualification was mandatory under the request for proposals, and CONFIRE’s proposal should never have received consideration by the county, let alone the county’s recommendation for further negotiation and ultimate award. CONFIRE’s proposal represented that Priority had sufficient organizational experience based on the ambulance services Priority provides in its largest service area, Maricopa County, Arizona. Priority does not have a contract as the primary ambulance provider with Maricopa County itself; instead, Priority contracts with five municipalities that together comprise only a portion of Maricopa County.
Priority’s contract with the City of Chandler, Arizona only commenced in or about January 2022 and thus fails to satisfy the durational requirement in the RFP, which requires the bidder to have continuously provided ambulance services for five of the last seven years. Additionally, under that contract, Priority only provides the physical ambulance and an EMT [emergency medical technician] driver – whereas the city provides the licensed paramedic on board the ambulance – and thus Priority itself is not capable of providing advanced life support services as required by the request for proposals. Priority’s contract with the City of Scottsdale, Arizona only includes the provision of basic life support services and does not include the provision of advanced life support services required by the request for proposals, which are instead provided by the local fire department.
CONFIRE also represented that Priority has an active contract with the City of Surprise, Arizona, but in actuality, that contract is no longer active and thus should never have been included in CONFIRE’s proposal to begin with. Yet, even if the contract was still active, it only allowed Priority to provide backup 9-1-1 ambulance response—as opposed to the primary 9-1-1 ambulance response services required by the RFP. At best, then, Priority has only provided
primary 9-1-1 ambulance response services for the requisite durational period for two municipalities in Maricopa County: the City of Glendale, Arizona, and the City of Goodyear, Arizona.”
Thus according to Larson, Phillips, Ranjha and Falstein, the team of CONFIRE and Priority fell down on the requirement that they have “organizational
experience,” which requires the bidder to have continuously engaged in the provision of 9-1-1 ambulance services under a contract for a large urban area with a population greater than 1 million. “In addition, the bidder’s contract with the large urban area must include the provision of multiple levels of ambulance services, including advanced life support, interfacility transport, and critical care transport services. Further, the bidder must have provided the services continuously for five of the last seven years. Neither CONFIRE, nor the fire agencies comprising its membership, possessed the organizational experience necessary to meet these requirements. CONFIRE instead attempted to rely on its private subcontractor, Priority,” to meet that criteria, according to Larson, Phillips, Ranjha and Falstein, who maintain, “Priority has only provided primary 9-1-1 ambulance response services for the requisite durational period for two municipalities in Maricopa County: the City of Glendale, Arizona, and the City of Goodyear, Arizona. However, based on the population metrics submitted by CONFIRE, the combined population of these two municipalities only amounts to 338,000 residents – a far cry from the service area population of 1,000,000 required under the request for proposals.”
Larson, Phillips, Ranjha and Falstein accused the county of hiding the failure of CONFIRE and Priority to meet the requisite standards from the public.
AMR’s legal team discovered that shortcoming only after it requested documents relating to the county’s awarding of the contract to CONFIRE by making public records requests for documents related to the decision.
According to the suit, the county sent a letter to CONFIRE on April 7, 2023 “wherein the county informed CONFIRE that ‘[a]fter a thorough review of your request for proposals submission, we are missing the demonstration of your subcontractor meeting the minimum qualification set forth in [the] request for proposals’ under the organizational experience requirement. The county further stated that in order for CONFIRE’s proposal to receive further consideration, it must ‘submit documentation demonstrating your subcontractor’s ability to meet the minimum qualifications set forth in the request for proposals, specifically experience providing primary 9-1-1 ambulance services for a large urban area with a population greater than 1,000,000.’ On or about April 11, 2023, CONFIRE responded to the county’s letter in an attempt to make the requisite showing of its organizational experience. But no additional responsive documentation was provided. CONFIRE instead merely repeated the same information submitted with its initial proposal, again relying on Priority’s limited history of providing ambulance services for the five municipalities in Maricopa County, which is inadequate.”
The petition for a writ of mandate does not ask for a monetary settlement for AMR other than attorney’s fees but does seek from the court that it declare that the selection process failed to adhere to the state requirements for a request for proposals process and therefore constituted an illegal restraint on competition, grant an injunction preventing ICEMA from granting CONFIRE the ambulance service franchise, grant an injunction against the board of supervisors from violating the state requirements relating to requests for proposals, require the county to grant AMR’s protest of the procedure and consider CONFIRE’s proposal alone and award the franchise contract to AMR.
County spokesman David Wert told the Sentinel, “The December 5 Board of Supervisors agenda materials, comments made by county staff and the board members at the meeting, and the county’s subsequent news release address this subject well. The county doesn’t have any additional comments at this time.”
The county’s previous statements maintain that the evaluation by the “unbiased evaluation” by the four-member panel could be interpreted as favoring CONFIRE. Though the total cumulative scores, against a standard with 1,720 points maximum, favored AMR, which registered 1,519 total points against 1,515 points for CONFIRE, a differential of one quarter of 1 percent, the county emphasized that three of the four judges on the panel favored CONFIRE over AMR. One of the evaluators rated AMR above CONFIRE by 35 points, 419 to 384, while the other three evaluators found in favor of CONFIRE by scores of 383 to 373, 363 to 346 and 385 to 381.
Additionally, according to the county, CONFIRE, as the dispatch agency for the county and fourteen other agencies within the county’s confines has demonstrate its organizational experience with regard to ambulance operations in that it has managed and coordinated the emergency medical response to the county’s unincorporated areas, the cities of Apple Valley, Big Bear, Chino, Chino Hills, Colton, Montclair, Needles, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, Rialto, San Bernardino, Twentynine Palms, Upland and Victorville, a population approaching or exceeding 1.2 million, such that the AMR lawsuit is without merit.
San Bernardino County is not alone in having jettisoned AMR as its ambulance service provider.
The County of Sonoma acted similarly in terminating a contract for ambulance service it had with AMR for over two decades, whereupon AMR sued the County of Sonoma in March 2023. The County of Sonoma countersued AMR in June 2023.
Of note is that for more than three-and-a-half decades, AMR has been one of the most constant and generous of contributors to the political campaigns of members of the board of supervisors, lagging behind a small handful of companies, corporations or individuals in the development industry, but accounting for more money being provided to the county’s top politicians than the lion’s share of businesses or wealthy individuals which and who provide officeholders with funds to run their campaigns, including well over seven eighths of those in the building industry. In recent years, however, public employee unions, among them most notably the San Bernardino County Professional Firefighters Union Local 935, have taken on a leading role in bankrolling the county’s politicians, primarily the board of supervisors. The county’s firefighters, in particular their labor representatives, have been prime movers in the effort to deprivatize ambulance service in the county.

A Bevy Of Former Top Tier Republicans Forced Out Of County GOP Over Democratic Endorsements

As the current crop of political hopefuls progresses further into the 2024 election cycle in San Bernardino County, a trend that has manifested with the leadership of the region’s GOP leadership is being met by a countertrend among Republicans who are pressing for greater party loyalty and ideological purity.
Some of those who were considered to be the local party’s prime movers and members of its command echelon have been winged in the demand for reform.
The difficulty that has led to this crisis consists of efforts by several leading lights among the Republicans, ones who have previously or still hold some of the most powerful political positions in the region, violating both the 11th and 12th  Commandments.
The 11th Commandment states, “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow or sister Republican.”
The 12th Commandment holds, “Thou shalt not promote a Democrat in lieu of a Republican.”
In years past, Curt Hagman, Robert Rego and Acquanetta Warren were pillars of the local Republican Party. Hagman, the one-time mayor of Chino Hills, went on to hold a position in the California Assembly for six years. As his time in the state legislature was heading toward elapsing in 2014, in 2013 he convinced the other members of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee to elect him to replace Rego, then the Republican Central Committee chairman. Rego’s claim to fame was that in his capacity as party chairman he had done yeoman’s work in fattening the party electioneering war chest to be able to keep the Republican Party in control of the county. Hagman prevailed upon his fellow party members to put him into county party leadership role as a dual-headed approach to reinventing the California Republican Party, as he was running in tandem with former Assemblyman/State Senator and Republican legislative leader Jim Brulte, who was then seeking the state party chairmanship. Hagman, who had to step over Rego to claim the county party chairmanship, smoothed things over with Rego by arranging to make him the central committee’s finance chairman and chief parliamentary officer. Hagman at that point was intent on using his control of the county party to perpetuate his political career, as he was being termed out of the Assembly that year and was vying for Fourth District county supervisors against an incumbent Democrat Congresswoman, Gloria Negrete McLeod.
In the 2014 race for supervisor, Hagman, a state legislator assisted by his then-chief of staff, Mike Spence, was able to adroitly use the county Republican Party support network to outmaneuver the less politically savvy federal legislator, McLeod, doing so against the odds, as the Democrats since 2009 have throughout San Bernardino County with the exception of only a couple of pockets opened up a wider and wider registration advantage over Republicans. Hagman parlayed his control of the Republican Central Committee into a concentration of party money to promote himself and attack McLeod, in doing so engineering for himself a victory in the 2014 election. Four years later, in 2018, and eight years later, in 2022, he was reelected Fourth District San Bernardino County supervisor.
In Fontana, registration overwhelmingly favors Democrats. At present, of its 113,626 total voters, 55,410 or 48.8 percent are registered Democrats, while 24,340 or 21.4 percent are registered Republicans. The city’s registered voters who have no declared party affiliation, in fact, outnumber registered Republicans, as they account for 25,065 of the city’s electorate, or 22.1 percent. The remaining 7.7 percent of the city’s voters affiliate with the American Independent, Peace & Freedom, Libertarian, Green or other more obscure parties. Despite their overwhelming numerical disadvantage ot Democrats in Fontana, Republican have dominated the city for more than two-and-a-half decades. Acquanetta Warren, who was appointed to the council in 2002, elected in her own right in 2004 and then reelected to the council seat she held in 2008, made her first run for mayor in 2010, succeeding. She was reelected thrice thereafter, in 2014, 2018 and 2022. As mayor, she has consistently led a ruling coalition on the council consisting of Republicans. She has done that by using money supplied to her by both the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee and deep-pocketed Republican and building industry donors to either keep existing Republicans on the council or to install into office Republicans essentially of her choosing. John Roberts, a former firefighter, was elected to a two-year term on the city council in 1992 and has been reelected eight times since. With Warren, he has formed the core of the Republican embodiment of the council for over two decades. In 2014, real estate professional Jesse Armendarez, who had previously used a good deal of his wealth to back Warren and her associates, was elected to the Fontana School Board with Warren’s backing. In 2016, again with Warren and the local Republican network giving him key support, Armendarez was elected to the Fontana City Council. For four years, he voted in lockstep with her and Roberts. In 2018, Phil Cothran Jr., the son of another major donor to the party, Phil Cothran Sr., ran successfully for the Fontana City Council. In 2020, Armendarez forewent running for reelection to the city council, instead seeking election as San Bernardino County Fifth District supervisor. Warren, immediately, began casting about for a Republican replacement for Armendarez. She settled on Pete Garcia, whom she had promoted as a successful candidate for the school board in 2020. Again, with the Republican political machine’s backing, Garcia had been elected to the city council in 2020. While Armendarez had fallen short in his 2020 bid for Fifth District supervisor, two years later, after the county supervisorial district boundaries had been redrawn, putting him into the county’s Second District, he ran for supervisor there, that time successfully.
Hagman, an alpha male, and Warren, an alpha female, used their strong personalities to take on leadership roles not just in the Republican Party but in the jurisdictions where they were elected, propelling their own careers forward. Rego, an accountant by trade who is comfortable with figures and handling money, used his skill and position as party chairman and party finance chairman/treasurer to beef up the local party’s finances and give it what it needed to outdistance the Democrats in all order of local races.
Indeed, the Republican Party has been in ascendancy in San Bernardino County since 1966, the year Ronald Reagan first became governor of California, and two years after Harry Sheppard, a fourteen-term New Deal Democrat Congressman who had represented San Bernardino County from January 1937 until January 1965, imploded in financial scandal. Sheppard was succeeded by a replacement Democrat, Kennth Dyal, but Dyal was chased from office by Republican Jerry Pettis in 1966.
Since that time, San Bernardino County has remained, more or less, under the control of the Republican Party. For 43 of those years, the Republicans maintained their command based primarily on their greater numbers in the county overall, with exceptions here and there in the largely blue-collar Central Valley cities of Fontana, Rialto and San Bernardino, particularly while the Kaiser Steel Mill in Fontana was a major employer in the Inland Empire. In 2009, the number of Democrats in San Bernardino County eclipsed the number of Republicans. Nevertheless, San Bernardino County remained and yet is one of the last bastions of Republicanism in the Golden State, which is dominated by the Democrats overall, as they have supermajorities in both of the state’s legislative houses and monopolize virtually every other office in Sacramento, from lieutenant governor to attorney general to secretary of state to controller to state superintendent of schools to insurance commissioner.
With only a few exceptions, generally involving those areas in the county where Democrats lopsidedly outnumber Republicans or where the districts in question straddle both San Bernardino County and other counties where the Democrats have the upper hand, members of the state legislature or Congress who represent San Bernardino County are Republicans.
This is a testimony to two San Bernardino County realities, one being the general dysfunction of the local Democratic Party, which in only a handful of cases is able to hitch up all of its horses to the same side of the wagon to have them pull in unison, and the other being the sheer resolve and efficiency of local Republicans who have demonstrated on a consistent basis the ability to plan, organize, direct and control a coherent overall political strategy that involves energetic fundraising and the well-coordinated and effective application of money and electioneering talent in running campaigns. Over the entirety of San Bernardino County and its 1,180,288 registered voters, registered Democrats convincingly outnumber registered Republicans 478,586 or 40.5 percent to 348,500 or 29.5 percent. Still, engaged Republicans outhustle engaged Democrats and do a far better job of convincing their less active party colleagues to get out and vote than do their Democrat rivals. Of the five positions on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, four are held by Republicans. On the 22 city and two town councils among the 24 incorporated municipalities in San Bernardino County, 17 have more Republican members than Democrats.
Despite all of that, there is now and has been for some time general alarm within the local Republican Party that party members, indeed ones generally considered to be party stalwarts, are losing their resolve and, for a variety of reasons, are allowing their party principles to be compromised.
A serious indication of this slippage is Republican office holders and/or party leaders siding with Democrats over Republicans in local races endorsing Democrats rather than Republicans, engaging in fundraising efforts for Democrats running against Republicans and not only accepting the endorsements of Democrats for themselves but openly soliciting those endorsements and engaging in actions or votes antithetical to Republican Party positions to get those endorsements.
In September, a cross section of San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee members, led by Mike Cargile, who was the GOP standard bearer in the effort to unseat Democrat Norma Torres in the 35th District in 2022 and is again running against her this year, took issue with Hagman and Warren, along with Roberts, Garcia and Armendarez endorsing Torres and Democrats in other selective races. Those endorsements included ones provided by Hagman, Warren, Roberts and Garcia of Torres’ son, Robert Torres, who is vying this year for State Assembly in the 53rd District. A Republican, Nick Wilson, is seeking election in the 53rd District. Wilson, like Cargile, has been endorsed by both the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee and the California Republican Central Committee.
The Republican Central Committee’s bylaws prohibit a member of the central committee from endorsing a candidate other than one endorsed by the central committee as a whole. Most pointedly, the bylaws make clear, members of the Republican Central Committee cannot endorse a Democrat and retain their membership in the central committee.
Initially in September, Cargile made a motion to bounce Hagman, Warren, Roberts, Garcia and Armendarez off of the central committee. The central committee parliamentarian, Ben Lopez, pointed out that Hagman, Warren, Roberts, Garcia and Armendarez are no longer dues-paying or active members of the central committee and that as such, they were already no longer participating in the central committee meetings. While that may have been true, at that very September 14 meeting, Hagman had been in attendance and had been the featured speaker. Cargile and the others, however, accepted Lopez’s representation at face value, and Cargile withdrew his motion, based upon the assurances provided that Hagman, Warren, Roberts, Garcia and Armendarez were indeed no longer members of the central committee and would not be taking part in any further party functions as members of the central committee.
When Hagman had been questioned at that meeing over his endorsements of Torres and her son, he had responded by saying that Torres had endorsed him in his 2022 reelection bid for supervisor and that he had simply returned the favor.
“She stood up and endorsed me over Connie Leyva,” Hagman said, referring to the Democrat who had run against him in 2022. 
“When I was mayor [of Chino Hills between 2006 and 2008], she [Norma Torres] was mayor of Pomona,” he noted, saying he got along with her well at that time. More recently, he said, she had carried legislation that was of benefit to San Bernardino County and as such was a valuable resource at the federal level for local government.
Last year, when Robert Torres jumped into the 53rd District Assembly race, he endorsed him, too, Hagman said.
That was meant as no offense to Wilson, Hagman said. “So, before I even knew he [Wilson] was running, I endorsed him [Robert Torres].”
When pressed, Hagman said he would not rescind those endorsements.
“Sorry, Nick,” Hagman said.
The endorsements are multidimensional. One issue is that there is an appearance, at the very least, that the endorsements extend from more than just a few Republicans. Warren is the head of “Team Fontana,” the coalition that includes Roberts, Phil Cothran Jr, Garcia and, as emeritus members, both Armendarez and Cothran’s father, Phil Cothran Sr. In 2021, Phil Cothran Sr, who for more than a decade has been a major donor to Acquanetta Warren and Republican causes in general, was selected chairman of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee. He remains in that position. His son, while a member of Team Fontana, avoided personally endorsing Norma Torres and Robert Torres, though “Team Fontana” is backing the mother/son set of candidates. Phil Cothran Sr has not personally endorsed either of the Democrats himself. Still, he has avoided taking any action, as local party chairman or otherwise, in renouncing the endorsements of Democrats by his close associates or “Team Fontana,” which technically but not officially includes his son and, by extension, himself.
What some see in this are self-inflicted wounds, yet ones which extend further to damage the party. Warren, for example, is or at least was, arguably or actually, San Bernardino County’s leading African American Republican politician/officeholder. That she is now being ostracized from her party is creating fertile ground for the Democrats who have been unable to effectively erode the Republican hold on power throughout the county, with what promises to be a vulnerable spot to crush the GOP’s armor.
Hagman had already compromised himself as a firm and fast Republican when he signed on with the public employee unions representing the county’s rank and file. The traditional dichotomy between Republicans and Democrats held that Republicans were the party of corporate America, entrepreneurs and those seeking to hold the line on the expense of government, while the Democrats are the party of labor and unions. By blurring the distinction between the two parties, Hagman is running the risk that what distinguishes one from the other will be lost and that in an atmosphere in which Democrats have numeric superiority, those Republicans who have faithfully turned out to support party principles will no longer have a reason to do so, and the field will be lost to the Democrats.
Already, Warren and Hagman, who just a few years ago were seen as those who embodied Republican ideals firm and fast, are being seen as sell-outs, RINOs, Republicans In Name Only, cheap politicians who retained their offices and prospered politically personally, but at what cost to party principles and Republican values?
Things are getting worse for the Republicans.
Henry Nickel, a Republican who was Fifth Ward councilman in San Bernardino from 2013 until he was turned out of office in 2020 when students, young progressives and older Democrats coalesced to back Democrat Ben Reynoso, is seeking to unseat Reynoso in this year’s Fifth Ward race. He picked up the San Bernardino Republican Central Committee endorsement. It has now been learned that Michelle Sabino, who represents the Third District on the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee and is an active operative with the Inland Empire Business Alliance Political Action Committee is now involved in supporting Kimberly Knaus, who is one of the candidates in the San Bernardino Fifth Ward race. Knaus is a Democrat.
In her role with the Inland Empire Business Alliance and its political action committee, Sabino is active in determining which candidates for local office the organization is going to support, securing money for those candidates and then either conveying it to them directly or using it to run independent expenditure activity to support their candidacies,
The Inland Empire Business Alliance Political Action Committee does not exclusively back Democrats. It is, for example, supporting Ovi Popescu and Rhodes “Dusty” Rigsby, both Republicans, in their electoral efforts for the Loma Linda City Council.  
Still, the Inland Empire Business Alliance is supporting a handful Democrats. One of those is Democrats is Knaus.
The research Sabino does for the Inland Empire Business Alliance in determining which candidates it should support includes interviewing the candidates. Despite the consideration that both Sabino and Nickel are members of the Republican Central Committee and that they have been attending monthly meetings of that organization together for the last two years, Sabino did not arrange an interview with Nickel.
“I would have been more than willing to be considered by the Inland Empire Business Alliance for an endorsement and any support it would offer to my campaign,” Nickel told the Sentinel. He said he was disappointed that Sabino did not reach out to him.
Nickel added, “It also appears Council Candidate Kim Knaus’ funds are being used to pay for the services of San Bernardino County GOP Treasurer and former Chairman Robert Rego’s company, Parkview Business Services, as Knaus’ campaign treasurer.  San Bernardino County GOP bylaws are clear that members of the central committee are subject to removal if advocating for the election of candidates opposing SBCGOP-endorsed candidates.  If members of the SBCGOP are in fact advocating for any of my opponents in the 5th Ward City Council race, they are subject to removal from the San Bernardino County Central Committee.”
Cargile said that it was “completely unacceptable for members of the central committee to be supporting Democrats. Today’s Democratic Party represents human trafficking, fentanyl poisoning, child trafficking, out-of-control bureaucracies, inadequate support of our police agencies, the destruction of the American economy and the loss of jobs. If you support Democrats, you are embracing those values and your constituents need to know that. You see several of these Republicans, who are Republicans in name only, such as Acquanetta Warren and Curt Hagman and [Ontario City Councilman] Alan Wapner and [Ontario Mayor] Paul Leon, who are accepting trinkets from politicians like Norma Torres. They are destroying their cities for a couple of dollars. They are doing this for personal gain. When you endorse a candidate, you do not endorse a person so much as as you endorse their ideology. When these Republicans endorse Democrats and their values, they are signing on to accept the things that are destroying our cities, our county our state and our country. They should not be allowed to remain as members of the central committee and we should do everything we can to let their constituents know what they are doing.