Cassie MacDuff


Published: 12 October 2011 07:40 PM

When I was a reporter newly assigned to cover San Bernardino City Hall in the late 1980s, a political insider offered a valuable insight: San Bernardino’s politics are second only to Chicago’s for political intrigue.

The city proved that once again this week as the rumor mill churned out versions of an incident at a city clerk candidates’ forum on Friday.

It was at the regular weekly meeting of the Democratic Lunch Club. Two of the five candidates — Gigi Hanna and Amelia Sanchez-Lopez — were invited to make 15-minute presentations each.

Hanna made her presentation, then Sanchez-Lopez made hers and the floor was opened for questions.

Hanna raised her hand and club President Mark Alvarez recognized her. She asked her opponent how she would maintain the independence essential to a city clerk’s duties with her campaign so closely tied to City Attorney Jim Penman’s.

Sanchez-Lopez’s name appears on Penman’s campaign signs. Penman’s campaign footed the bill for Sanchez-Lopez’s share ($2,612) of the signs’ cost and $318 to put her name on his mailers. People say he accompanies her to events all over town.

Hanna’s question involved the city clerk’s responsibility for signing warrants for payments the city makes (an essential check-and-balance). How would Sanchez-Lopez handle it if she were asked to sign a fraudulent warrant for the city attorney’s office?

According to some in the audience, Sanchez-Lopez appeared not to understand the question. Hanna rephrased it. Sanchez-Lopez still couldn’t answer.

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