Sandra Emerson, Staff Writer
Created: 04/28/2012 07:19:08 PM PDT
UPLAND – Former Upland Mayor John Pomierski’s admission to accepting a $5,000 bribe from an Upland business does not worry city officials from a legal standpoint.
Pomierski pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Riverside to accepting a bribe from the owners of Chronic Cantina restaurant as part of a plea agreement.
Mayor Ray Musser and City Manager Stephen Dunn both said they don’t expect Pomierski’s plea to affect the city’s stance in lawsuits against the city.
The restaurant owners and the property owners both have sued the city, accusing Pomierski of extorting money from them in return for obtaining a new conditional use permit.
The City Council revoked the restaurant’s conditional use permit in April 2009.
The permit was revoked after reports were made to the council from the Police Department citing an increase in crime at the restaurant.
The restaurant owners claim the calls for police service originated elsewhere in the city.
Following the revocation, the restaurant owners took the city to court, but lost.
Dunn said the city has been defending itself against both lawsuits.
“We feel that JP’s guilty plea is not going to have any impact as far as the city is concerned because it was simply an issue with their conditional use permit and we already beat them in the court on the issues of that,” Dunn said. “Any action that the former mayor had done had nothing to do with that. We’ve consistently beat them.”
Chronic Cantina, a limited liability company, filed a claim for damages and complaint at City Hall and West Valley Superior Court in Rancho Cucamonga in April 2011, accusing Pomierski and former Building Appeals Board member John Hennes of extorting money from the business in order to allow it to stay open.
Pomierski admitted to accepting the bribe in exchange for helping the owners obtain a new conditional use permit.
Katrina Foley, attorney representing Chronic Cantina owners Keith Scheinberg and Dan Biello, said the case is currently at a standstill due to Pomierski’s recently filing for bankruptcy as well as the federal case.
“Certainly an admission of guilt will have an impact both in our civil case in establishing our burden of proof as well as an impact, I would assume, on the bankruptcy proceedings,” Foley said. “Arguably he’s filing for bankruptcy to avoid having to pay his debt for all the damages caused from the bribery scheme.”
The suit claims that because Pomierski was an agent of the city, the city is implicated as well.
“That business was shut down because of the wrongful acts of the agents of the city,” Foley said. “Somebody’s got to be held accountable for that.”
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