Wendy Leung, Staff Writer
Created: 02/22/2011 05:46:50 PM PST

UPLAND – Few in the city, including members of the City Council, knew Mayor John “JP” Pomierski would step down on Tuesday. But his resignation, under the cloud of an ongoing investigation by the FBI and IRS, was not entirely a surprise.

“I think it was just a matter of time,” said Tom Mitchell, a member of the City Council advisory committee. “It was what was needed for the city so it could move forward and put some of this behind us.”

Eight months after federal investigators shut down City Hall for an entire day and raided the mayor’s home office, Pomierski, 57, tendered his resignation in a brief letter consisting of three sentences. News quickly spread among Upland leaders and to neighboring cities.

“He had to get out of the heat,” said Ken McNeil, a former San Antonio Heights resident and a close council watcher. “It was only going to get hotter.”

McNeil said the FBI probe has made the public liken Upland to Bell, the city embroiled in a salary scandal involving nearly all of its leaders. He said Pomierski’s resignation, although a good move, doesn’t mean it closes the chapter on the city’s woes.

“This is going to stay with Upland for a long time,” McNeil said. “It’s going to be hard for Upland to move on.”

Upland’s troubles have done little to bolster the reputation of local government.

“Anytime you see potential or alleged wrongdoing – the allegations in Bell, the allegations in Upland, the allegations that occurred with our council with regards to Rex Gutierrez – all of those things have an impact on the public perception of government leaders,” said Rancho Cucamonga Mayor Dennis Michael. “It’s more important than ever before that government needs to be transparent not only in their decision making but in their conduct.”

Gutierrez, a former Rancho Cucamonga councilman, stepped down last year when he was found guilty of playing a role in the scandal that rocked the San Bernardino County Assessor’s Office.

Michael said he applauds Pomierski for resigning.

“My perspective is (Pomierski) resigned because he wanted what’s in the best interest of Upland rather than what’s in the best interest of JP,” Michael said.

Pomierski was elected in 2000 to help the city move away from financial collapse. Backers of the controversial mayor often give credit to Pomierski for the city’s success.

“I hate to see John resign, I wish he hadn’t,” said Mark Hill, a close friend of Pomierski’s and longtime owner of Davis Goldmark Jewelers, a downtown business that closed last year.

Hill called the FBI and IRS probe a “witch hunt.”

“It’s amazing how they can take so long to come up with something. To me it’s a joke, the way they came into City Hall with Gestapo-type tactics,” Hill said. “If you got the evidence, you got the evidence, step up with it. It just doesn’t take this long to investigate something. I’m sorry.”

Investigators in June seized records from City Hall and documents and cell phone from Pomierski’s home. According to a search warrant for Pomierski’s phone, investigators were looking for evidence of violations including alleged racketeering, conspiracy, extortion, bribery, mail and wire fraud and money laundering.

No charges have been filed against Pomierski.

Bob Cable, owner of Cable Airport, said City Hall operations have not been disrupted since the investigation and no matter who leads the city, it’s still “business as usual.”

“I think everyone wants to see the FBI investigations end,” Cable said. “I hope the city comes up clean on this and it may.”

It was a precipitous fall for Pomierski, a divisive leader who has called Upland home since his teenage years. The former Upland High football player easily won re-election twice and had pondered a run for a seat on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.

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