Officials, officers in complaint
Sandra Emerson, Staff Writer
Created: 12/20/2010 10:08:45 PM PST

UPLAND – The property owners of the former Chronic Cantina building are preparing to re-file a federal complaint against the mayor, City Council and two members of the Upland Police Department.

The owners filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in April, but pulled the complaint in November to add allegations of racketeering, according to Robert Mills and his attorney, Jeffrey Willis.

In the original complaint, the property owners, Mills and Scott Schaller, claimed the City Council’s decision in April 2009 to revoke the conditional-use permit was based on false and fabricated information provided by the Upland Police Department.

William Curley, Upland’s city attorney, said he has no knowledge of the re-filing.

“I see no evidence the police have done any misconduct,” he said. “If they do file a new pleading and have allegations, certainly we’ll look at them critically and honestly.”

Mills and Schaller are accusing the Police Department of falsely attributing 70 calls for police service to the Chronic Cantina. The high number of calls was used as the basis for revocation of the conditional use permit.

Police Capt. Jeff Mendenhall and Detective Don Dodt are named in the complaint. Mendenhall referred a request for comment to the city attorney.

In June, FBI and IRS agents confiscated records from Upland City Hall and Mayor John Pomierski’s home, where his construction business is based. They also took records from J.H. Builders in Upland and Venture West Capital in Rancho Cucamonga.

A search warrant for Pomierski’s cell phone sought records as evidence of alleged violations, including racketeering, conspiracy, extortion, bribery, mail and wire fraud, and money laundering.

Several people and businesses were listed in the warrant, including Mills, Schaller and Chronic Cantina.

Mills said he could not comment on the details of the case because of the ongoing investigation.

“If indictments are brought forward it will prove that we didn’t get a fair shake in the City Council and Planning Commission meetings,” he said.

The City Council approved the revocation of the conditional-use permit in April 2009 after the same decision was made by the Upland Planning Commission.

The permit was pulled due to an excessive amount of police calls made to the location, according to the staff report.

Since the bar and restaurant opened in January 2008, there were 70 calls for service, according to a city staff report.

However, the property owners allege most of the reported 70 calls were not legitimate and that the list of computer- aided dispatches was not made available to them by the Police Department until after the permit was revoked.

Schaller, a retired reserve sheriff’s deputy, submitted a declaration to the court in Rancho Cucamonga describing the ways the police calls were falsely attributed to the bar. His findings are included in the federal complaint as well.

According to the complaint, 16 calls attributed to Chronic Cantina occurred elsewhere in the city, seven took place after the bar was closed for several hours, eight were false reports and 13 turned out to be regarding unruly patrons who were upset for being kicked out of the bar.

The complaint also states 31 of the calls were self-generated by police loitering on the property.

Several Chronic Cantina employees witnessed groups of police cars parked in the bar’s driveway, often obstructing the exits, although no calls for service were made, according to court documents. Photographs were also produced as evidence to the court.

Robert Schauer, personal attorney for Pomierski and a member of the Planning Commission, said the accusations being made against the city and police are “preposterous.”

“Capt. Mendenhall is the most honest, by-the-book cop I’ve ever met in my life and if anybody accuses Capt. Mendenhall of whitewashing or fabricating police calls at the Chronic Cantina, I would say they’re an absolute liar,” said Schauer, who voted to pull the conditional-use permit during the Planning Commission in March 2009.

“These people won’t quit,” he said. “They didn’t get it. The place was violating the CUP.”

An incident in which the smoke alarms were taped over to prevent them from going off during a concert was another reason for pulling the permit, he said.

The day after the council approved the revocation, the business remained open, leading to the city’s filing for a temporary restraining order in the Rancho Cucamonga court. The order was granted, but the property owners filed a stay, which was heard in the Superior Court in Needles.

Judge Joseph Brisco originally sided with the owners, but later changed his ruling in favor of the city. Mills and Schaller are in the appeals process on that matter.

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