By Sandra Emerson Staff Writer
Created: 03/03/2011 06:25:23 PM PST

UPLAND – When Councilman Ken Willis heard the news of former Mayor John “JP” Pomierski’s indictment Thursday, he felt too sick to eat lunch.

“I’m heartbroken. I’m sick to my stomach. I’m highly disappointed and I’m angry,” Willis said.

Pomierski, who resigned from his post as mayor on Feb. 22, pleaded not guilty Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Riverside after being named in an 11-count indictment that was returned Wednesday afternoon by a federal grand jury.

The indictment accuses Pomierski, 56, of conspiracy, extortion and bribery offenses in a scheme that led the owners of two businesses to pay $45,000 in bribes.

Willis said he was surprised when FBI and IRS agents confiscated records from City Hall and Pomierski’s home office in June but hoped the allegations would not lead to indictments.

“I was sort of hopeful that it would prove otherwise,” Willis said. “It’s put a weight on everyone’s relationship with John.”

In a statement released Thursday, newly appointed Mayor Ray Musser said that although this is very upsetting to the community, he wants to assure residents that the city government has begun to mend and called upon the residents to support the recent changes.

The council on Monday appointed Musser to replace Pomierski.

“I wish to emphasize that the indictment does not in any way implicate the city of Upland or its employees acting in their official capacity,” he said. “The goal of the City Council is to move forward and rebuild public trust. In the coming months you will see an air of transparency that has not existed in the past, and I assure the residents that your concerns will be listened to and addressed.”

Councilman Gino L. Filippi said the “pay to play” scheme of which Pomierski is accused undermines the public’s trust in elected officials and the democratic process.

“The allegations of impropriety of city officials mentioned in the indictments raises the likelihood of further revelations of corruption in our city,” Filippi said. “This is an all-time low and disgrace for Upland. I believe the FBI and federal grand jury did deliver.”

Pomierski’s resignation helped prevent the city form having to scramble when the indictment was filed, said Councilman Brendan Brandt.

The council had already replaced the mayor and is in the process of filling a vacant council seat.

“We do have a mayor and council intact to respond to these issues,” Brandt said. “I understand (Pomierski) has an attorney, so they’ll unfortunately have to deal with those issues, and we will, as a city, continue to move forward and hopefully put this behind us.”

But the council is still responsible for responding to the indictment, he said.

“It’s right in front of us, and we have to address it too and it’s just a very unfortunate situation,” he said.

Brandt said he was surprised to read the allegations in the indictment.

“When the raid had occurred, we from the city side fully cooperated with the federal investigation,” Brandt said. “I think now we’re just going to let the judicial process take place.”

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