Tuesday, August 14, 2012 – 10:30 a.m.
It’s not often when you can witness a justice system being abused.
Abused in plain sight for that matter!
But, in San Bernardino County, a place that operates more like a banana republic than a state subdivision, it’s routine.
A comparison of two political cases, with opposite outcomes, paints a grimm picture of the situation.
The first case involves a recent local criminal investigation and subsequent prosecutorial decision and a second, occurring two years ago, was not so good for the target.
The later case, brought by San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos against Former Grand Terrace City Councilman Jim Miller back in 2009 raised many eyebrows.
Miller, who was a first-term councilman, had voted to approve “a check register of previously made disbursements” on the city council agenda’s consent calendar. The check registers contained previously approved disbursements for city notice publications in the local adjudicated community newspaper owned by Miller’s wife.
A practice that pre-dated her ownership.
Miller was arrested at home by District Attorney Investigators and charged with violating the state’s conflict of interest law. A felony offense.
He was forced to post bail in the amount of $25,000.
Miller, who is well-liked in his community, rather than go through a costly trial, was forced to resign from office and plead guilty to a simple misdemeanor.
His resignation was insisted upon by prosecutors.
Recently there’s been good news for Miller. His 24-month probation was terminated and conviction dismissed earlier this month.
Now comes Victorville City Councilman Rudy Cabriales.
Cabriales was the recent subject of an investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) and District Attorney.
The subject matter of the aforementioned investigation involved Cabriales voting on city contracts and payments benefiting his wife.
According to a recent story in the Victorville Daily Press, the FPPC found that Cabriales broke state law. However the Public Integrity Unit of the District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges because it had determined Cabriales had no “malicious intent”.
However in the Cabriales matter political connections may have played a factor.
Cabriales has long-standing ties to Orange County-based political consultant David Ellis.
Ellis, who owns Delta Partners LLC and The David Ellis Group, is the political advisor to District Attorney Ramos and businessman William “Buck” Johns.
Johns, who is Chief Executive Officer of Newport Beach-based Inland Energy, is a fixture in Victorville political circles and behind projects that have cost the city dearly, while making his company millions.
The most recent is the failed Victorville Two Power Plant and EB-5 Worker Visa Program terminated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.
In a recent story published in The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin newspaper regarding the FPPC assuming a role in the county related to investigating conflicts of interest and campaign finance violations, Commission Chairperson Ann Ravel said “I think it is appropriate for the FPPC to be the totally neutral entity that enforces campaign finance laws and other campaign reform throughout the state. Whether it be at the state or local level.”
An interesting comment to say the least.
The political and government dealings in San Bernardino County have been under the microscope of the U.S. Department of Justice for some time now.
With abuses like this commonplace, their stay in the county is likely to continue for some time.