Ref: Hesperia Star – Beau Yarbrough / Cox Gets A New Lawyer — Again

Cox gets a new lawyer — again

California Charter Academy founder gets new representation in 41⁄2-year-old case

February 01, 2012 4:00 PM
Staff Writer

RANCHO CUCAMONGA • In the latest delay in a case that’s dragged on almost 41⁄2 years, California Charter Academy founder C. Steven Cox has lost his legal representation again, forcing the defense in his case to start over once more.

Cox, who founded what was the largest charter school in California prior to its 2004 collapse, is now on his fourth defense attorney since he and former Hesperia mayor Tad Honeycutt were indicted in September 2007.

His most recent defense attorney, San Bernardino County Public Defender Gary K. Wynings, took over Cox’s case after his previous attorney, public defender Earl Wade Shinder died suddenly in November 2011.

There’s a lot of homework to catch up on for Cox’s new attorney, Rancho Cucamonga defense attorney Geoff W. Newman. Deputy District Attorney Michael Fermin has previously said that 52,000 pages of discovery and 456 exhibits had been presented to the grand jury in the California Charter Academy case. Evidence presented by the defense will likely raise the page count even higher.

Cox and Honeycutt face 117 felony charges between them, related to alleged illegal transactions between CCA and a for-profit subsidiary run by Honeycutt.

According to Fermin and Cox, Wynings left the case due to a conflict of interest — and he’s hardly the first to do so.

Honeycutt is the third member of his family to serve Hesperia as an elected official, serving a Hesperia City Councilman from 2000 to 2008.

His father, Theron, was a councilman from 1991 to 1995. His mother, Kathleen, represented the 34th Assembly District in the California State Legislature from 1993 to 1994. Honeycutt was also active for years in Victor Valley Republican politics, raising funds that ultimately helped a number of elected officials into office.

Those connections caused one judge after another in Victorville Superior Court to recuse themselves, and the case was ultimately moved to Fontana Superior Court and then to Rancho Cucamonga.

The CCA defendants are next scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 31.

Beau Yarbrough may be reached at (760) 956-7108 or at beau@HesperiaStar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.

Ref: Hesperia Star – Beau Yarbrough / Prosecutor To Remain On Honeycutt Case, Despite Promotion

Prosecutor to remain on Honeycutt case, despite promotion

Michael Fermin promoted, tells judge he will remain on CCA case

August 19, 2011 4:00 PM
CCA logo
Staff Writer

The defendants in the California Charter Academy trial have already been through several attorneys, but despite a recent promotion, their prosecutor won’t be going anywhere.

Michael Fermin, who has been the lead prosecutor in the prosecution of former mayor Tad Honeycutt and CCA head Steven Cox since their indictment in Sept. 2007, will be promoted to assistant district attorney in October. (He’s currently a supervising deputy district attorney.)

But he’ll remain on the case when it eventually comes to trial, he told Judge Jon Ferguson Friday morning in Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court.

Between them, Honeycutt and Cox face 117 felony charges related to the financial transactions connected to the defunct CCA.

At the time of its collapse in Aug. 2004, California Charter Academy was the largest charter school in California, with 36 schools around the state. An audit commissioned by the California Department of Education and released in April 2005 accused CCA founder Cox, Honeycutt and others of misappropriating $23 million in state and federal taxpayer funds. The charges ultimately filed against Cox and Honeycutt center on an alleged $5.5 million in illegal transactions between the CCA and a for-profit subsidiary run by Honeycutt.

Honeycutt is charged with 15 counts of Misappropriation of Public Funds, 15 counts of Grand Theft, three counts of failure to file a state tax return and a single count filing a false tax return. If convicted, Honeycutt could face 20 years in prison.

Phelan resident Cox is charged with 56 counts of Misappropriation of Public Funds, 56 counts of Grand Theft and a single count of failing to file a tax return. If convicted, Cox faces up to 64 years in prison.

Honeycutt was the third member of his family to serve Hesperia as an elected official, serving a Hesperia City Councilman from 2000 to 2008. His father, Theron, was a councilman from 1991 to 1995. His mother, Kathleen, represented the 34th Assembly District in the California State Legislature from 1993 to 1994.

Although San Bernardino attorney Grover Porter has represented Honeycutt since the beginning, Cox’s public defender, Gary K. Wynings, is his third attorney since 2007.

“We still have some discovery we’re looking to get,” Wynings told Ferguson on Friday. He’s reportedly still digging through more than 40,000 pages of documents related to the prosecution’s case turned over to him by Fermin’s office.

Honeycutt and Cox are next due in court on Jan. 27, 2012.

Beau Yarbrough may be reached at (760) 956-7108 or at beau@HesperiaStar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.

Ref: Hesperia Star – Beau Yarbrough / More Delays In Charter Academy Trial

More delays in charter academy trial

Former mayor’s next court date almost four years after original indictment

April 14, 2011 3:20 PM
Courthouse
Staff Writer

If former mayor Tad Honeycutt and Steven Cox are to ever have their day in court, it won’t be any time soon.

The two men, who between them face 117 felony charges related to the financial transactions connected to the defunct California Charter Academy, were originally indicted in Sept. 2007.

At yet another of their pre-trial hearings on Thursday in Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court — the third venue their hearings have taken place in — the can was kicked down the street once again, with a new court date of Aug. 19 set.

Although earlier delays had to do with various Victorville and then Fontana judges passing off the hot potato of a case — Honeycutt’s family have been involved in Victor Valley politics for decades, raising questions about various judges’ connections to them — the current round of delays are a result of Cox changing attorneys.

Cox’s previous public defender, Earl Shinder, died of a gunshot wound in Apple Valley in November 2010, and his new attorney, public defender Gary K. Wynings, is in the process of trying to catch up.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Fermin has previously said that 52,000 pages of discovery and 456 exhibits had been presented to the grand jury in the case, and on Thursday, Fermin said that Wynings was “still going through discovery” and had requested additional documents from the DA’s office.

At the time of its collapse in Aug. 2004, CCA was the largest charter school in California, with 36 schools around the state. An audit, commissioned by the California Department of Education, and released in April 2005, accused CCA founder Cox, Honeycutt and others of misappropriating $23 million in state and federal taxpayer funds. The charges ultimately filed against Cox and Honeycutt center on an alleged $5.5 million in illegal transactions between the CCA and a for-profit subsidiary run by Honeycutt.

Honeycutt is charged with 15 counts of Misappropriation of Public Funds, 15 counts of Grand Theft, three counts of failure to file a state tax return and a single count filing a false tax return. If convicted, Honeycutt could face 20 years in prison.

Phelan resident Cox is charged with 56 counts of Misappropriation of Public Funds, 56 counts of Grand Theft and a single count of failing to file a tax return. If convicted, Cox faces up to 64 years in prison.

Honeycutt is the third member of his family to serve Hesperia as an elected official, serving a Hesperia City Councilman from 2000 to 2008. His father, Theron, was a councilman from 1991 to 1995. His mother, Kathleen, represented the 34th Assembly District in the California State Legislature from 1993 to 1994. Honeycutt was also active for years in Victor Valley Republican politics, raising funds that ultimately helped a number of elected officials into office.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.

Ref: Hesperia Star – Staff / CCA Head Cox Gets New Attorney

CCA head Cox gets new attorney

January 05, 2011 11:28 AM
CCA logo
Staff Writer

California Charter Academy founder C. Steven Cox has a new attorney, who not only wants to dig into the tens of thousands of pages of documents the prosecution has turned over — he wants even more.

Cox, who founded what was the largest charter school in California, prior to its 2004 collapse, was previously represented by San Bernardino County Public Defender Earl Wade Shinder, who was found dead in his home on Nov. 14. Wednesday, in Rancho Cucamonga Superior Court, public defender Gary K. Wynings became the third defense attorney to take over Cox’s case.

He has his homework cut out for him: Deputy District Attorney Michael Fermin has previously said that 52,000 pages of discovery and 456 exhibits had been presented to the grand jury in the California Charter Academy case. Wynings apparently doesn’t believe he’s gotten his hands on all of it, though: After a bench conference Wednesday morning, Judge Jon Ferguson announced, “apparently there are still some discovery issues.”

And after that, evidence presented by the defense will likely raise the legal document page count even higher.

Cox and fellow defendant, and former Hesperia mayor, Tad Honeycutt were originally arrested and indicted in Sept. 4, 2007 on 117 felony charges between them, related to alleged illegal transactions between CCA and a for-profit subsidiary run by Honeycutt.

Honeycutt is the third member of his family to serve Hesperia as an elected official, serving a Hesperia City Councilman from 2000 to 2008. His father, Theron, was a councilman from 1991 to 1995. His mother, Kathleen, represented the 34th Assembly District in the California State Legislature from 1993 to 1994. Honeycutt was also active for years in Victor Valley Republican politics, raising funds that ultimately helped a number of elected officials into office.

Those connections caused one judge after another in Victorville Superior Court to recuse themselves, and the case was ultimately moved down the Cajon Pass to Fontana Superior Court and then to Rancho Cucamonga.

Cox and Honeycutt are next scheduled to appear in court on April 14.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.

Ref: Star Editor – Peter Day / Choices and Important Decisions

Peter Day

Peter Day

A View from Main Street: Choices and important decisions

October 04, 2010 4:38 PM
Star Editor

This year’s City Council race has a relatively large number of candidates, which is a sign that democracy is alive and well in Hesperia.

Several years ago, even longtime Victorville City Councilman Terry Caldwell lamented that no one had chosen to run against him. And as expected, Caldwell served another term.

Like many things, however, choice generally creates a healthy climate. Local government is no exception.

Next month, Hesperia voters will have the chance to affirm or reject one incumbent, Thurston “Smitty” Smith, who currently serves as mayor. What makes this an especially interesting aspect of the election is that one of Smith’s former ardent supporters, Al Vogler, is waging a campaign to unseat Smith by paying for advertising on large billboards and in newspapers. Vogler’s trademark mobile campaign signage also can be seen around town imploring voters to not vote for Smith.

For years, Smith has been one of the more popular people in town. He’s affable, likable and involved. Before election to the City Council, he was a park board member.

But his former political ally, Rita Vogler, also has been well-liked and active in the community. Before she was elected in 2002, Vogler had been president of the Hesperia Chamber of Commerce, and she owns a travel agency in town.

Vogler’s husband, Al Vogler, played a major role in both politicians getting elected to office. His unusual campaign tactics also helped to dismantle the powerful political force of former council members Dennis Nowicki, Jim Lindley and Tad Honeycutt, who often were aligned with Councilman Ed Pack, who has chosen to not seek reelection. Without Vogler’s direction, it’s likely that Mike Leonard, a well-respected former firefighter but a political unknown, and postal worker Paul Bosacki might not have won election to office.

However, Vogler’s wife, Rita Vogler, and Smith have been well-known figures for many years and possibly could have won election to office without Al Vogler’s help.

Last December, Rita Vogler nominated herself for a term as mayor, a position she had held a few years earlier. None of the other four council members seconded her motion. Instead, Smith was nominated to continue serving as mayor, and all five council members — including Vogler — voted to name him mayor again. Apparently, that act was viewed as a betrayal to Al Vogler.

Instead of taking up sides in this apparent feud, Hesperia voters should judge any incumbent by his or her leadership and decision making as it affects our city. Has Smith been an effective city councilman? Will others better serve our interests?

Read up on the issues, attend a City Council meeting or candidate forum, view candidate profile videos on hesperiastar.com, or meet or call the candidates directly.

This election we have many choices. Make yours wisely.

Ref: Hesperia Star – Peter Day / Arrests, Allegations and State Politics

A View from Main Street: Arrests, allegations and state politics

February 15, 2010 11:50 AM
Peter Day

Peter Day

Who would have thought that the greatest political comeback in California history — the likely election of Attorney General Edmund G. Brown to governor next fall — would have a Hesperia connection?

But it certainly looks that it does.

So there was Brown, also known as “Governor Moonbeam” when he served as our state’s governor in the 1970s, standing alongside San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos during a recent press conference to announce conspiracy and corruption charges against former County Assessor Bill Postmus.

Postmus’ ties to Hesperia are strong. For one, he was arrested early one recent morning at SpringHill Suites by Marriott in Hesperia not far his former field office when he served as First District Supervisor.

Also arrested was Jim Erwin, who served as arbitrator during The Colonies’ 2006 settlement negotiations with the county. At one point, Erwin apparently was being considered to handle public relations duties for the Hesperia Unified School District.

Postmus previously served on the board of the California Charter Academy. Tad Honeycutt, a longtime friend of Postmus and former mayor of Hesperia, is currently awaiting trial related to charges on the CCA case.

Names with ties to Hesperia that have surfaced in other newspapers regarding the Postmus situation include Mark Kirk, who is chief of staff of County Supervisor Gary Ovitt, and Anthony Riley, another Ovitt staffer. Kirk, who is the son of Hesperia Unified School District board member Dr. Robert Kirk, ran for city council last year. Riley currently serves on the HUSD board. Neither was mentioned by name in the DA indictment, however.

(Another Hesperia connection: Postmus father, Bill Postmus, Sr., formerly was head of Summit Academy Charter School, in Hesperia.)

Strategically, Brown, a Democrat, could benefit by standing strong against alleged Republican wrongdoers. Clearly — and infinitely importantly — what’s happened so far are merely charges and allegations. Justice needs to be served, and that can take a long time. Moreover, those charged could be proven innocent. We just don’t know yet.

But even if this case isn’t decided for several years, Brown has succeeded in getting mileage out of it.

And Hesperia, once again, has found its way into state news.

The article was taken from the Hesperia Star 760-956-7827

Ref: Hesperia Star – Beau Yarbrough / End Of An Era As Honeycutt Leaves Office

End of an era as Honeycutt leaves office

December 03, 2008 5:01 PM
Tad Honeycutt
STAFF WRITER

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Hesperia City Council, Councilman Tad Honeycutt gave up the seat he’s held for eight years to the newly elected Paul Bosacki. The third member of his family elected to represent Hesperians, Honeycutt’s departure likely marks the end of an era in the city’s political life.

“There’s been a Honeycutt on the council for 15 of the city’s 20 years,” Honeycutt said in his final remarks as a councilman.

Honeycutt’s father, Theron, was a councilman from 1991 to 1995. Tad’s mother Kathleen represented the 34th Assembly District in the California State Legislature from 1993 to 1994. Tad was a councilman from 2000 through 2008.

“For the most part, politics disgusts me. One thing I do appreciate are the relationships,” said Tad Honeycutt.

Despite their political differences, Honeycutt said he enjoyed working with the others over the years. Honeycutt has traditionally been more pro-development than most of the current council members and has had a strongly libertarian bent that has put him at odds with the rest of the council in many of its decisions.

He praised outgoing Mayor Mike Leonard as “one of the best mayors we’ve ever had.”

“Thank you for the opportunity to serve,” said Honeycutt.

Honeycutt did not run for a third term in office and would likely have faced an uphill battle if he had: Honeycutt and co-defendant C. Steven Cox face 117 felony charges between them relating to alleged illegal transactions between the California Charter Academy headed by Cox and a for-profit subsidiary run by Honeycutt.

The charges include misappropriation of public funds, grand theft, failure to file a state tax return and filing a false tax return. Honeycutt faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. The charges filed against Cox and Honeycutt last year specifically address 37 transactions in which a total of $5.5 million was transferred from the non-profit CCA to its for-profit subsidiaries. The funds were allegedly transferred without the legally required oversight from the governing board.

Honeycutt is next scheduled to appear in Victorville Superior Court, in a pre-trial hearing, on February 26.

Honeycutt’s indictment wasn’t the first strike against one of the city’s most prominent political families: In September 2006, Theron Honeycutt was convicted Vancouver, Washington of child rape in the first degree and assault in the third degree. Sentenced to 180 days in jail, his sentence was reduced by 27 days due to good behavior. He is now a registered sex offender.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.

The article was taken from the Hesperia Star 760-956-7827

Ref: Hesperia Star – Peter Day / Surprise, Surprise, Bentley Dose It

A View from Main Street: Surprise, surprise, Bentley does it

November 10, 2008 1:14 PM
STAR EDITOR

While the election of Barack Obama as president wasn’t unexpected, many local election results were quite surprising. In fact, I wish the Hesperia Star had the resources to hold voter focus groups to see what voters were thinking going into last Tuesday’s election. Unfortunately, we’ll have to leave the in-depth demographic surveys and focus groups to CNN and the likes.

At the top of the surprising results category was the victory of Christopher Bentley for one of two available school board seats. Not only did Bentley – who funded and managed his campaign by himself – win, but he quickly sprinted away from the field and never looked back. After all the results were tallied, Bentley had 24.87 percent of the vote.

As it turned out, the real race was for second place. Chris Lindsay led early in the counting, but Anthony Riley made a late-night surge and narrowly beat Lindsay, 20.82 percent to 20.04 percent.

If this race were held a year ago, it would have been considered a clear victory for the Robert Kirk faction, as Bentley was an ardent defender of Kirk, and Riley has made recent public comments that seem to align him with the Kirk camp. But the picture in 2008 seems very different than in 2007 with Bentley emerging as a maverick who readily spreads around his criticism of the school district.

How did Bentley do it? He had a central theme that he repeated over and over: He is a parent who believes something is wrong with the district and he has ability to change it. While Riley used expensive glossy mailers, Bentley’s campaign was almost anti-gloss. He depended on weekly half-page, text-based ads, strategically placed in the Hesperia Star. He believed, and it appears he was completely correct, that voters wanted to read real ideas rather than depend solely on pretty pictures.

Mike Leonard’s successful city council re-election campaign, which was managed by Al Vogler, also relied on text-based newspaper ads and mailers. His message, and that of second-place winner Paul Bosacki, also used large billboards on Main Street.

Bentley also regularly cruised Hesperia Star online comments, defending his ideas and positions and attacking those he disagreed with. In the process, Bentley was tagged countless times by those who took exception to his views.

Some people figured the local California School Employees Association chapter candidates Eric Swanson and Frank Rich would win seats. Bentley attacked Swanson, as did a Hesperia Teachers Association-funded mailer, for his involvement with the now defunct California Charter Academy. Swanson has adamantly maintained he never did anything inappropriate. Perhaps if the CCA matter were completely resolved – CCA principals Steven Cox and Tad Honeycutt are still expecting to go to court regarding the issue – Swanson could have had a clearer shot at a school board seat. Was Rich too unknown to the general public? Perhaps.

Getting the least amount of votes was Bruce Henson, who seemed to have some of the best ideas and pertinent experience for the school board job. Hopefully, he’ll consider another run.

For the past two years, the school board has been where the action is, in terms of interesting – and sometimes controversial – local news. It looks like that won’t change, at least for another two years.

The article was taken from the Hesperia Star 760-956-7827

Ref: Hesperia Star – Beau Yarbrough / Leonard, Bosacki, Bentley, Riley Win Seats

Leonard, Bosacki, Bentley, Riley win seats

Riley comes from behind to bump Lindsay out of seat

November 05, 2008 12:54 PM
Anthony Riley
STAFF WRITER

All Hesperia votes have been counted: Mayor Mike Leonard and Planning Commissioner Paul Bosacki have been elected to the Hesperia City Council, and candidates Chris Bentley and Anthony Riley have been elected to the Hesperia Unified School District school board.

The San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters published the results at 12:38 p.m. Wednesday, with votes from all Hesperia precincts now counted, including absentee and early voting results.

City council race

A retired firefighter, Leonard has won a second four-year term in office. Councilman Tad Honeycutt, whose seat was also available in this election, chose not to run, and he’s been replaced by letter carrier Bosacki, who first ran for city council in 2006 and was named a planning commissioner the following year. The two received 26.30 and 23.67 percent of the vote, respectively, or a total of 7,379 and 6,641 votes each.

Their rivals, Mark Kirk and Russ Blewett, ended up in a second tier, almost 2,000 votes behind Bosacki. Kirk and Blewett each received 16 percent of the vote (16.95 and 16.68 percent, to be exact), or 4,755 and 4,678 votes. Kirk spent more than $131,269 in the election (final figures won’t be available until the end of January), more than 12 times what Leonard and Bosacki spent, combined.

Candidates Rochelle Garner, Scott Bennett and Dennis Arquette did not spend much (or anything) on advertising, did not pay for ballot statements and perhaps as a result, are clustered at the bottom of the vote count, receiving between 6 and 5.15 percent of the vote each, with Garner doing the best with her 1,684 votes.

School board race

In the HUSD school board race, a stay at home father of four elementary school children is the top vote getter in the race. Bentley received 7,283 votes, or 24.87 percent of the vote.

Over the course of the vote counting, Anthony Riley — the best-funded candidate in the school board race — lagged behind candidate Chris Lindsay, but Wednesday morning, the San Bernardino County economic development director for airports closed the gap, passing Lindsay just before crossing the finish line. Riley received 20.82 percent of the vote with a total of 6,098 votes. Lindsay received a total of 20.04 percent of the vote and only 229 votes fewer than Riley.

Eric Swanson, the only veteran school board member in the race — although he was voted off in 2006 — trailed Lindsay with 15.04 percent of the vote, or 4,405 votes.

Frank Rich received 3,490 votes, or 11.92 percent of the total.

Riley had been endorsed and financially supported by the Hesperia Teachers Association, the union representing the HUSD’s teachers. The HTA outspent the California School Employees Association, the union that represents non-management, non-teacher HUSD employees. The CSEA endorsed and supported Swanson and Rich.

Bringing up the rear was independent candidate Bruce Henson, who received 2,141 votes or 7.31 percent of the total.

Water board race

One incumbent held onto his seat and one lost his in the two Hesperia-area Mojave Water Agency board of directors races.

Incumbent Richard Hall, the Division 3 director on the MWA board, held onto his seat with 7,142 votes, or 49.76 percent of the vote, easily holding off a challenge from Brian Pierce, who received 4,822 votes or 33.60 percent of the vote and Nancy Siegrist, who received 2,389 votes or 16.64 percent of the vote.

Incumbent Dick Fortyune, the Division 7 director, did not fare so well. He lost his seat to challenger Doug Shumway, who won 72.30 percent of the vote, or a total of 8,098 votes. Fortyune, in turn, collected only 3,103 votes, or 27.70 percent of the total.

No more updates — probably

The next set of election results is due to be released Monday, November 10 at 5 p.m. by the registrar of voters. If something occurs to change the results — unlikely now, with 100 percent of precincts counted — there will be a new story to reflect that.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.

The article was taken from the Hesperia Star 760-956-7827

Ref: Hesperia Star – Beau Yarbrough / Veteran School Board Member To Attempt Another Run

Veteran school board member to attempt another run

Eleven would-be candidates have begun process of running for school, park board, city council

July 22, 2008 11:54 AM
Eric Swanson
Staff Writer

A total of 11 candidates have begun the process of running for open seats on the Hesperia City Council, Hesperia Unified School District school board or the Hesperia Recreation and Park District board.

School board

Eric Swanson served five years on the school board (the election date was changed during his term to line up with other elections held in Hesperia) before coming in fourth in 2006 a race where only the top three finishers would win a seat on the school board. Friday, Swanson picked up the papers from the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters to begin the process of seeking a seat alongside the three who unseated him — Robert Kirk, Hardy Black and Lee Rogers.

Hesperians Bruce Henson and Frank Rich also picked up papers to run for the school board. No further information about either man was available at press time.

They join Anthony Riley, who works for the San Bernardino County economic development department, as likely candidates for the available two seats. Incumbents Bruce Minton and Helen Rogers are not expected to run for reelection.

City council

Four men and one woman have also started the process for running for seats on the Hesperia City Council.

Planning Commissioner Paul Bosacki picked up papers to run for city council on Monday. Bosacki ran for city council in 2006, coming in fifth.

Rochelle Garner, who begun her campaign for the Hesperia City Council earlier this year on social networking Web site MySpace, picked up her papers on Tuesday.

They join the three men who picked up papers last week: Mayor Mike Leonard is seeking a second term. Former Hesperia planning commissioner Russ Blewett, who currently serves as the county planning commissioner for the 1st District, is also seeking a return to public life: He was formerly the mayor of Baldwin Park. Mark Kirk, the son of school board president Robert Kirk, also works for the County of San Bernardino, as the chief of staff of Supervisor Gary Ovitt. Incumbent councilman Tad Honeycutt has said he will not run for a third term.

Park board

Incumbents Bob Chandler and Jack Hamilton are the only people as of Friday afternoon currently looking for the two seats available on the Hesperia Recreation and Park Board.

Would-be city candidates must have their completed paperwork returned to the office of the Hesperia City Clerk (for city council candidates) or the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters (for school or park board candidates) by August 8 at 5 p.m. The deadline is extended until August 13 if one or more incumbents on a governing body choose not to run for re-election.

For more information about the city council candidacy process, call 947-1027. For more information about the school or park board candidacy process, call (800) 881-8683.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.

The article was taken from the Hesperia Star 760-956-7827

Ref: Hesperia Star – Peter Day / Red Light Camera

A View from Main Street: A few more thoughts on red light camera issue

July 21, 2008 11:34 AM
Peter Day

Peter Day

Star Editor

First an apology: Upon reflection, I now believe my use of the word “salivating” in last week’s “A View From Main Street” commentary was too much. And as it turns out, that was not an accurate description of how Hesperia city leaders are feeling about the red light camera situation.

At the end of last Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Councilwoman Rita Vogler and Councilman Tad Honeycutt made it clear that the council has no plans to install cameras similar to those in Victorville.

“For now, and hopefully for a very long time, that won’t happen,” the councilwoman said, emphatically.

“We don’t want to create a Big Brother state here in Hesperia,” Honeycutt said.

While I’m personally very happy with the councilmembers’ remarks – and I believe most Hesperia residents should be too – I want to share my initial hope when writing the commentary last week. As editor of this publication, I don’t believe I have the authority to request anyone, in this case members of the City Council, take any specific action. But I certainly hope my words and thoughts will help strike up community conversation on any given topic. If that helps spark positive change, that’s fine. I never want to be the one with a pitchfork and torch leading the way. But I do want to shine a large flashlight on a topic now and then.

While we’re on the topic, our council should be applauded for not rushing to installing photo enforcement cameras. With money tight everywhere, a quick fix is tempting. But putting a red light to red light cameras is a good thing.

***

Hesperia isn’t only shining when compared to Victorville, but Hesperia is doing many things better than Apple Valley too. On Monday Mayor Mike Leonard presented the annual State of the City address to members of the Hesperia Chamber of Commerce during the chamber’s monthly luncheon. Apple Valley also has a tradition of first presenting its State of the Town address at its chamber of commerce – until now.

Apple Valley Mayor Tim Jasper decided instead to first present the address to the meeting of the Victor Valley Sunrise Rotary, a civic group comprised of the valley’s movers and shakers. The chamber would get a followup presentation. Town residents also would get a chance to hear the address at a summer concert at the Civic Amphitheater, Jasper said.

But Jasper’s decision to break with tradition rankled Apple Valley Councilman Bob Sagona who shared his views during a recent town council meeting. The mayor apparently didn’t appreciate his fellow councilmember’s public disapproval of the decision and reportedly said, “I guess this conversation is over.”

Jasper said, “You have one minute” for Sagona to give his comment, which didn’t please the councilman.

The exchange was upsetting to several in attendance including former Apple Valley Mayor Rob Turner.

“I was absolutely appalled at the treatment of Mr. Sagona at the hands of Mayor Jasper,” according to a report.

Thankfully, Hesperia has chosen to stay with tradition and present the address at the Hesperia Chamber event. And while our councilmembers don’t always agree, at least they attempt to respect each other’s opinions and right to speak their minds.

The article was taken from the Hesperia Star 760-956-7827

Ref: Hesperia Star – Peter Day / Politics That Smolder

A View from Main Street: Politics that smolder

November 05, 2007 3:15 PM
Star Editor

For one group of Hesperians, the fire that seemed to stop well clear of here certainly left its mark. Due to fire-related road closures, the group seeking to recall three members of the school district’s board of trustees has had to begin from scratch.

Will the false-start aid the would-be recallers or those board members under fire, Robert Kirk, Hardy Black and Lee Rogers? The pro-recall side benefited by including more current information. The three board members, on the hand, will be able to create new responses.

Although not an impossibility, a recall is no easy task. First the recall proponents would have to gather nearly 7,000 signatures in order to get it on the ballot. A special would be held next year, if the signatures, which amounts to 20 percent of registered voters living in the HUSD, are obtained.

It should be an interesting few months ahead.

***

With a March 14, 2008 court date set, it appears that City Councilman Tad Honeycutt can concentrate on city business while defense attorneys Grover Leon Porter and Riverside attorney Steven Harmon pour over thousands of documents. Officials for California Charter Academy and its for-profit subsidiary Everything For Schools, which Honeycutt headed, are accused of misusing $23 million.

With several of Honeycutt’s fellow councilmembers calling for him to step down, it’s doubtful he could work out a plan to similar to one suggested by embattled Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona, who last week was indicted on federal charges. Carona is attempting to devise a plan where he could hold onto his job while stepping away from day-to-day duties.

(Would the California Family Rights Act allow for a leave of absence while one prepares a court case following a criminal indictment? Probably not.)

But it appears Honeycutt will be able to hold onto his position for the time being. But it’s anyone’s guess if he can continue juggling his civic and personal lives when the CCA court case finally gets going next spring.

The article was taken from the Hesperia Star 760-956-7827

Ref: Hesperia Star – Peter Day / Honeycut Should Stay As Long As He Can Serve

Our View: Honeycutt should stay as long as he can serve

September 24, 2007 3:20 PM
Peter Day

Peter Day

Staff Reporter

Although Tad Honeycutt’s recent legal issues have complicated his personal life, he still has an important job to do as an elected member of the Hesperia City Council. And as long as he is able to fulfill those duties, he should be allowed to do so.

By law, an elected official has the right to stay in office if he has been indicted and charged with a crime, as Honeycutt was when he was recently arrested – and later released on bail – regarding the California Charter Academy probe. In America, a person charged with a crime is regarded as innocent. A conviction, however, would certainly change that.

Three weeks ago, just after he was released from jail, Honeycutt missed a council meeting. But so did Mayor Pro Tem Mike Leonard, who was on a pre-scheduled vacation.

We are watching closely. If Honeycutt, or any councilmember, is unable to serve due to conflicts with personal commitments, we will certainly suggest that elected official step down.

Right now, however, just let Honeycutt have his day in court.

The article was taken from the Hesperia Star 760-956-7827

Ref: Hesperia Star – Peter Day / It Was A Truly Difficult Week

A View from Main Street: It was a truly difficult week

September 10, 2007 3:30 PM
Peter Day

Peter Day

Star Editor

To say last week was busy one is an understatement.

On Saturday, Sept. 1, the community came together to remember Brandon Smith, the popular son of Hesperia City Councilman Thurston “Smitty” Smith and his wife, Margaret. Earlier, Brandon was tragically killed while competing in an off-road motorcycle race, an activity he loved. Sunset Hills Memorial Park in Apple Valley, which presided over the memorial and graveside services, estimated about 750 people were in attendance.

There were dignitaries, friends, family members and, of course, fellow motorcycle riders. The service was emotional but balanced with several light-hearted remembrances of a young man whose personality and character touched everyone he met.

But the Smith event wasn’t the only memorial service to remember a young person who had died. Services were held at Calvary Chapel Hesperia and Desert View Memorial Park for little Madison Faler, a precious 4-year-old who lost a courageous and inspiring fight with cancer. She, too, was remembered as a person who brought something truly special to our world.

One of the biggest bombshells ever to drop in Hesperia hit like thunder on the afternoon of Tuesday, Sept. 4 when Michael Ramos, the San Bernardino County district attorney, announced that Hesperia City Councilman Tad Honeycutt had been arrested. Also arrested, was C. Steven Cox, founder of the California Charter Academy, where Honeycutt had served as head of a for-profit entity affiliated with CCA. Honeycutt, who later was released after posting bail, faces 20 years if convicted. His former business partner, Cox, who last week was held on $1 million bail, faces 64 years for his alleged role in the mismanagement of $5.5 million in taxpayer funds.

Last week’s arrests were a surprise. In April, Hesperia Star reporter Beau Yarbrough broke the story that the FBI was closing its investigation of the case. But those who have read even portions of the state’s 107-page audit of CCA, which was released in the spring of 2005, could easily see the allegations were extremely serious. Ramos, in fact, said CCA activities “turned my stomach a little bit.”

Yes, this week left many Hesperians feeling more than a bit queasy. Perhaps that is why Mayor Rita Vogler was right on when during last Wednesday’s City Council meeting she urged residents to take a collective deep breath.

“We’re going through some trying times right now,” the mayor noted.

The mayor also addressed the shooting death of 65-year-old Seutatia Tausili, who was allegedly shot by taggers as her family was attempting to prevent the taggers from marking their First Avenue neighborhood with graffiti.

“This is not the time for us to be afraid to do what we need to do,” Vogler said. “We must take control, we cannot close our doors, close our shades and pretend it’s not happening.”

However, Vogler recommended people call WE-TIP or the Hesperia Police Station if they see taggers in the act.

Vogler began last week’s meeting by honoring parents who had recently lost their children.

“Tonight I want to begin the meeting in honor of all the parents whom have lost their beloved children,” the mayor began. “We want to honor them for their extraordinary strength, reaching deep inside themselves, finding a way to keep their world and that of others moving forward at a time when so much pain is being felt.”

The article was taken from the Hesperia Star 760-956-7827

Ref: Hesperia Star – Beau Yarbrough / New Elementary School Faces Possible Delay

New elementary school faces possible delay

School board throws out Mission Crest Elementary School bids due to conflict of interest concerns

December 26, 2006 6:18 PM
Mission Crest Elementary School
Staff Writer

(Originally published December 26, 2006.)

Individually, Diana Gott and W.D. Gott Construction have both been good for the Hesperia Unified School District. Together, there’s a problem.

Gott has been the district’s director of facilities planning for more than 15 years, overseeing the construction of new schools in the booming school district.

Upland-based W.D. Gott Construction has built a number of those schools, including Ranchero Middle School, Mojave High School and Mesquite Trails Elementary School.

But the company will not be building Mission Crest Elementary School, set to open during the 2007-2008 school year, despite turning in the lowest bid for the project this fall.

Two years ago, Diana married Terry Gott, the vice-president of W.D. Gott Construction. As a result, she cannot oversee contracts between the district and her husband’s construction company without violating state conflict of interest laws, according to school board members.

In a special session last Tuesday, the Hesperia Unified School District school board voted 5-0 to throw out the bid for Mission Crest Elementary School and to begin soliciting new bids. The W.D. Gott Construction bid, at $14,272,000, was $11,000 cheaper than the next lowest bid, from Riverside-based ASR Constructors.

“My concern,” said school board president Bruce Minton during the meeting, “Is if we have bids submitted by Gott Construction, can we repeatedly have her recuse herself from the projects?  ”On a repeated basis, that might be a lot to impose on other members of our staff.”

“They’ve done fine work, there’s no question of the quality of work,” board member Hardy Black said Thursday. “It’s just a conflict of interest.”

Although all the construction bids for Mission Crest were sealed, Gott will supervise the construction process once the contract is awarded.

“It’s not practical for her to be isolated, being in the position she’s in,” Black said. “It’s kind of a no-win situation all around, it’s kind of a bad thing.

“Well, we’ve been told that the district won’t accept bids from us as long as Diana is there,” Mike Gott, the president of W.D. Gott Construction, and Diana’s brother-in-law, said Friday.

Legal counsel for the district had previously told school officials that Diana could stay in her current position without violating state law. According to her brother-in-law, Diana had offered to take different jobs, both in the HUSD and in another school district, to avoid the problem, but had been told by officials that she should stay on as the director of facilities planning.

District plans currently call for Mission Crest Elementary School to open during the 2007-2008 school year and to serve approximately 900 students.

“From our point of view, the district’s point of view, this delays the project,” Black said. How much of a delay, though, remains to be seen. “If we have good weather and can get the bids back in by the end of January, it shouldn’t affect it.”

“They’re not going to make that date, I don’t think,” Gott said. He estimates the school will be delayed two or three months. And further, “it’s quite possible that this contract will come in several hundred thousand dollars more expensive.”

Although the difference between the bids by Gott Construction and ASR Constructors was only $11,000, the next-lowest bid was $703,000 more expensive than ASR. With Gott Construction out of the picture, Mike Gott said, he expects the new bids to come in closer to the $14,989,000 bid from Rossetti Construction.

“I feel the district was more concerned about appearances than really doing their job,” said Mike Gott. “You should be concerned with getting your constituents the best deal you can, because you are the keepers of the taxpayers’ money.”

Board members “shouldn’t be a rubber stamp for the staff, but the staff had already implemented the procedures by which Diana could stay in her job,” Gott said. Independent bodies do much of the project oversight, he said, including outside architects, state reviewers and outside engineers.

Black said Diana Gott’s situation is a problem that the previous school board should have resolved two years ago.

“It’s terrible we inherited this problem and had to take care of it,” Black said, “And I can’t believe it wasn’t picked up earlier.”

“I just never dreamed that the board would take the action it took,” Mike Gott said.

In other matters on Tuesday, board member Robert Kirk directed staff to look into retaining Riverside law firm Wagner & Pelayes as district counsel.

The firm’s name might be familiar to High Desert residents: Partner Dennis Wagner was appointed to serve as interim counsel for San Bernardino County by Supervisor Bill Postmus earlier this year. The firm also represents City Councilman Tad Honeycutt as well as other individuals named in the 2005 audit of the California Charter Academy, a Victorville-based chain of charter schools that went under in 2004 amidst allegations of misusing $23 million in taxpayer funds.

Black also announced his intention to look into revising several board bylaws at a future meeting.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.

Ref: Hesperia Star – Peter Day / A View From Main Street: New Majorities Reign In Hesperia

A View from Main Street: New majorities reign in Hesperia – December 19, 2006

December 19, 2006 12:00 AM
Peter Day

Peter Day

(This story originally appeared in the Hesperia Star Tuesday, December 19, 2006)

Cowboy boot spurs rattle as a dust devil finally settles on Main Street. You can almost hear the twangy Johnny Cash-style guitar and eerie screech of a red-tailed hawk as a wind of change blows decidedly into this western town. Although in reality there are no six-shooters or Stetson hats (or much of the aforementioned movie imagery), one gets the feeling that this trio—Hardy Black, Robert Kirk and Lee Rogers—might be decked out in western gunslinger’s garb if they were elected into office 125 years earlier. Clearly, judging from their first school board meeting as the majority in control, this bunch means business.

Usually such small-town changing-of-the-guard begins with upbeat congeniality. And, yes, last week’s Hesperia Unified School Board meeting had its share of lightheartedness. The district presented an emotional send-off to outgoing board members Eric Swanson and Nellie Gogley. Both Swanson and Gogley were extremely visible, hands-on members of the board of trustees who earned many friendships through their hours of dedication to the district and its students. But when the festivities were over, the power trio laid down the law. Things are going to change. And fast.

First, the threesome voted to increase the number of school board meetings from one per month to three.

Second, they announced the district’s two sixth-grade-only schools, Cypress and Oxford, may be shut down and their buildings used for other purposes. The facilities may be absorbed by the two middle schools or used for other educational purposes, the trio suggested.

Less controversial moves include the possible canceling of a construction bid to build Mission Crest Elementary and a new school calendar.

Judging from the first meeting, times they are a changing at the school district.

***

By contrast, the new City Council’s first meeting several weeks ago was more of a love-fest. Rita Vogler, who was voted Hesperia’s new mayor, thanked outgoing councilman Jim Lindley. Lindley thanked Vogler. There were hugs. There were smiles. Heck, there were fluffy stuffed toys and bunches of flowers. Afterward, tasty refreshments were served in the foyer. All that was missing was a trumpet fanfare. A fireworks display would have been a fitting touch, too.

But underneath the can’t-we-all-just-get-along vibe were several indications that some things won’t necessarily change. Most notably, Vogler said the council would keep the current method of selecting members to the city’s planning commission and other committees. Originally derided by Vogler when the council enacted it nearly two years ago—”It’s silencing somebody’s voice,” she said then—the method of using the council majority to decide who is chosen will stay. (Previously, each council member selected one resident to sit on commissions and committees.)

Vogler’s decision means that her majority, which also includes Mayor Pro Tem Mike Leonard and newly elected City Councilman Thurston “Smitty” Smith, will be able to chose members to key positions. Those selections could have a profound effect on the city. The former council majority—Lindley, Pack and Tad Honeycutt—often selected commission and committee members with allegiances, or at least sympathy, to the home building industry. Commissioner Russell Blewett is a primary example. Are Mr. Blewett’s days numbered on the commission? Well, he might want to clean off his desk now.

Another surprise came when Vogler announced that she may support Lindley to fill newly elected county assessor Bill Postmus’ empty supervisorial seat. Lindley and Vogler haven’t always seen eye-to-eye over the past four years, so her support is unexpected. But creative allegiances often arise out of need.

Hesperia residents voted for change on Nov. 7, and they got it. But there’s one thing that may not change—majority still rules. It should come as no surprise. After all, this is politics.

***

On a completely different note, it was extremely heartening to participate in the Hesperia Community Rotary’s “Stuff a Bus” toy fund-raiser to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Victor Valley last week. One after one, the good people of Hesperia walked out of Kmart carrying extra bags of goodies to put in the bus. One generous father and son walked out with two bags, one large with several relatively high-priced toys for the bus and another smaller bag for themselves.

I saw it with my own eyes. Giving is alive and well in Hesperia.