Scales of Justice

By Mark Gutglueck (www.sbsentinel.com)
Posted on July 18, 2014

(July 15)– The preliminary hearing for former Upland City Manager Robb Quincey will be held on September 10, Judge Bridgid McCann ruled this week.

Quincey, in October 2012, was charged with embezzlement/falsification by a public officer, conflict of interest with regard to a public contract, and perjury. He pleaded not guilty to those charges at his arraignment before Judge Cara Hutson in December 2012.

The case against Quincey in some measure grew out of the circumstances surrounding former Upland Mayor John Pomierski, who was himself indicted in 2011 and in 2012 convicted of public corruption charges. Pomierski was instrumental in hiring Quincey as city manager and maintaining him in that position for more than five years. Seven months after FBI agents served search warrants at Upland City Hall, at Pomierski’s home and business office and at the offices of several of Pomierski’s business associates in June 2010 and one month after a significant public revelation in December 2010 of the questionable activity and violations of the public trust that had taken place during Pomierski’s ten year tenure in office, the Upland City Council in January 2011 suspended Quincey and placed him on paid administrative leave. Four months later, two months after Pomierski’s indictment, Quincey was terminated.

Quincey had a bachelor of arts degree in public administration and political science from the University of Minnesota, a master of public administration degree from the University of South Dakota and a doctorate in public administration with an emphasis in economics and organizational development from the University of La Verne. He completed post-doctorate education at Harvard University, Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. He served as the president of the board for Monte Vista Water District for more than 13 years and was the chief executive officer for the Inland Empire Utilities Agency. He was in his fifth year as the city manager in Hesperia when he was handpicked by Pomierski in March 2005 to succeed Upland’s previous city manager, Mike Milhiser, whom Pomierski together with his then-supporters on the council forced into resigning. Quincey was hired on April 4, 2005 and given a five-year contract with an annual salary of $195,000 and a guaranteed pay raise each January 1 equivalent to the highest percentage afforded any other Upland city executive management employee. Over the five-year span of that contract he was given a series of salary and benefit enhancements such that by January 2011 he was receiving a base salary and add-ons of $368,529 with benefits of $92,096, for a total annual compensation of $460,625, making him among the highest paid city managers in the state.

Additionally, Quincey was granted extraordinary autonomy and authority as city manager, including what was referred to as a super-bonus, that is, job security in the form of protection from termination on a simple majority 3-2 vote of the council. Rather, to fire Quincey, four votes were required of the council. He was also given the liberty of authorizing payments to city vendors, creditors, or claimants of up to $25,000 per year without first obtaining council authorization.

This last perquisite of his office would contribute to his downfall.

On July 27, 2008 Quincey and his former fiancé, Jennifer Stelzer, became embroiled in a heated argument at Quincey’s Upland home, terminating with Stelzer driving off as Quincey pounded on the hood of her car and kicked her side door panel. Quincey then sent Stelzer three insulting and profanity-laced text messages via their cell phones. The Upland police were summoned and detective Craig Sipple under the supervision of then-sergeant John Moore generated an eight-page police report pertaining to what had transpired. Moore signed off on the report, in which it was recommended that the matter be reviewed by the district attorney’s office for possible prosecution. Quincey contacted Stelzer and persuaded her not to press charges and then sought to have then-police chief Steve Adams intervene in the matter.

Consequently, the eight-page report Sipple originally authored was reduced to six pages and Sipple and Moore’s recommendation that the matter be referred to the district attorney’s office was changed to state that the case was given “Exceptional Clearance. Stelzer does not desire prosecution.” The redrafted six-page version of the report was buried in an inactive police department file that prevented it from being open to public scrutiny. Moore, however, retained a copy of the original eight-page report.

When Moore later applied for one of two open lieutenant posts with the department and was passed over, he retained the services of attorney Dieter Dammeier of the law firm Lackie Dammeier McGill & Ethir to represent him. Dammeier, in his discussions with Adams and Quincey, maintained his client had been bypassed for promotion because of his involvement in the Quincey domestic disturbance investigation and threatened to make a public issue of the matter and release the report.

In response, Quincey and Adams upped the number of captain positions with the department from two to three, promoted a lieutenant into that new spot, thereby creating another lieutenant vacancy, into which Moore was promoted. Dammeier presented the city with a $57,816 bill for his efforts on behalf of Moore. To keep the matter quiet and from coming to the attention of the city council and the public, Quincey used his maximum $25,000 annual discretionary spending authority as city manager to pay Dammeier’s firm in two $25,000 installments, one in the midst of the 2009-10 fiscal year on January 25, 2010, and another shortly after the initiation of the 2010-11 fiscal year on August 23, 2010.

According to former Upland City Attorney Bill Curley, Quincey persuaded then-assistant finance director Ruby Carrillo, with whom Quincey was intimately involved, to miscode one of those checks to make it appear that the payment had been made for another police department-related matter the city was negotiating with the police, union, specifically payment to officers for the time they spent just before their daily assignments donning their uniforms and the time after their shifts ended doffing their uniforms.

In June 2010, FBI and IRS agents served search warrants at Upland City Hall as well as at Pomierski’s home and the homes and offices of Pomierski’s appointee to the Upland Housing Appeals Board, John Hennes, and of Pomierski associates Jason Crebs and Anthony Sanchez. As FBI agents were carrying out that search inside City Hall, Quincey had an impromptu conference with Curley, who was then the city attorney, outside City Hall. Quincey related to Curley the circumstance with regard to the domestic disturbance incident involving Stelzer, the Sipple/Moore report relating to it and the action taken by Quincey and Adams to create a third captain position within the police department to open a lieutenant’s slot for Moore. A panicked Quincey expressed his concern that documents relating to the irregular activity regarding Moore’s promotion might be obtained by the FBI and he inquired of Curley what could be done to head off that eventuality. To Quincey’s chagrin, Curley informed the city manager that he was not at liberty to interfere in any way with the ongoing law enforcement investigation or to assert any kind of privilege over the documents that were at the root of Quincey’s anxiety. Rather, Curley told a now-mortified Quincey, as an officer of the court who had been provided with information relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation, he was duty bound to inform the FBI of what Quincey had just related to him.
Over the next nine months, events would overtake Pomierski, Quincey, Adams, Hennes, Crebs and Sanchez. Shortly after the raid on City Hall, Curley passed along the information he had received from Quincey to the FBI. The FBI then requested from City Hall and the police department a number of documents, memos and emails it had not obtained during the raid. In December 2010, Adams went out on stress leave, never to return to his post as active police chief. In January 2011, the city council put Quincey on paid administrative leave. Later that month, Crebs and Sanchez were indicted by a federal grand jury for their involvement in an extortion and bribery plot involving what was at that point an unidentified city of Upland official. The last week of February 2011, Pomierski resigned as mayor. On March 2, 2011, he and Hennes were indicted by a federal grand jury and charged with involvement in a bribery and extortion conspiracy whereby they were alleged to have shaken down individuals and businesses with project and permit approvals pending at City Hall. In May 2011, Quincey was fired by the city council. In September 2011, Adams officially retired as police chief, ending his ten-month extended stress leave. By 2012, Pomierski, Hennes, Crebs and Sanchez all pleaded guilty to charges pertaining to the bribery and extortion conspiracy federal prosecutors had alleged against them and were sentenced to time in federal prison. As part of their pleas, all agreed to cooperate with the FBI in its ongoing investigation of illegal activity at Upland City Hall.

In December 2011, Quincey complicated things for himself when he filed a wrongful termination claim against the city. His civil attorney, Joseph Wohrle, moved to have the matter heard by an arbitrator in closed session rather than in open court. The pursuit of the claim and those hearings provided the city with the opportunity to take Quincey’s deposition, that is, to question him under oath. That deposition was provided to investigators. Quincey’s case for wrongful termination was heard by arbitrator Sam Cianchetti, who in a decision handed down July 17, 2012 upheld the council’s termination of Quincey as justified and rejected in total his pursuit of $7.8 million in damages. Cianchetti dismissed Quincey’s and Wohrle’s contention that the firing was without cause, that the city council breached the terms of his contract, and that Ray Musser, who succeeded Pomierski as mayor, and councilman Ken Willis defamed him and maliciously and wrongfully characterized his performance in comments they made to the press at that time. Cianchetti further determined as “unfounded” the contention that Musser, Willis, Curley, city councilman Gino Filippi and city treasurer Dan Morgan made statements to the press which painted Quincey in a “false light” or ruined Quincey’s reputation and damaged his future earning potential.

On October 19, 2012 Quincey was arrested by investigators from the district attorney’s bureau of investigation and booked at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga on felony charges including unlawful misappropriation of public money, gaining personal benefit from an official contract, and giving false testimony under oath.

The complaint filed with the court by Paul Garcia, an investigator with the district attorney’s office, states that with regard to the first count, “On or about January 12, 2010, the crime of public officer crime, in violation of Penal Code Section 424, a felony, was committed by Robin Dale Quincey, who being a person described in Penal Code Section 424 charged with the receipt, safekeeping, transfer, and distribution of public moneys, did willfully in a manner not incidental and minimal without authority of law, appropriate the same, and a portion thereof, to personal use and the use of another.”

Garcia, in describing the second count, wrote, “On or about January 12, 2010, the crime of conflict of interest, in violation of Government Code Sections 1090 and 1097, a felony, was committed by Robin Dale Quincey, who did, while city manager for city of Upland, California, knowingly and willfully become financially interested in a contract made by him in his official capacity, and by a body and board of which the defendant was a member.”

Both January 12, 2010 incidents appear to pertain to Quincey’s preparation of the first $25,000 payment to the law firm of Lackie Dammeier McGill & Ethir to satisfy a portion of the $57,816 bill presented to the city for the firm’s efforts on behalf of Moore.

With regard to the third count, Garcia stated, “On or about June 7, 2012, the crime of perjury under oath, in violation of Penal Code Section 118, a felony, was committed by Robin Dale Quincey, who being a person, having taken an oath that he would testify, declare, depose, and certify truly before a competent tribunal, officer, and person, in a case in which such an oath may by law be administered, to wit, binding arbitration, did contrary to such oath state as true a material matter which he knew to be false, to wit that on January 11, 2010, defendant informed the city council for the city of Upland, California that Quincey ‘was going to be resolving a personnel matter related to John Moore.’”

Quincey stands accused of testifying falsely to the effect that he had informed the council of his intent to make the $25,000 payment. Four of the five members of the city council in January 2010 – Musser, Willis and councilman Brendan Brandt and former councilman Tom Thomas – have all said they were not told of the settlement arrangement with Moore or the payment to the law firm representing him.
This week, at a pre-preliminary conference on Tuesday July 15 before Judge McCann in West Valley Superior Court in Rancho Cucamonga, the preliminary hearing on the case which had previously been scheduled for July 21 was vacated and rescheduled for September 10.
Judge McCann told deputy district attorney Reza Sadeghi and defense attorneys Michael Zweibck and Michael Nasatir that she would entertain no further continuances of the preliminary hearing. A preliminary hearing, also known as an evidentiary hearing, entails the prosecution previewing an outline of the criminal case in which the judge hearing the matter is called upon to make a determination whether there is enough evidence to warrant having the matter proceed to trial. Though sufficient evidence to convict need not be demonstrated, enough evidence to satisfy the judge that there is probable cause to conclude that a crime was committed and the individual charged is responsible must be aired in open court. All evidence and witnesses brought forth are subject to examination by counsel for the defense. Moreover, this presentation of evidence locks the prosecutors in, to some degree, on the case they will need to present to a jury.

Potential witnesses to be called during the preliminary hearing include, the Sentinel is informed, Pomierski, former council members Tom Thomas and Ken Willis, current mayor Ray Musser and councilman Brendan Brandt, former police chief Adams, police department lieutenant John Moore, former assistant finance director Ruby Carrillo, other city staff members who were in place during Pomierski’s tenure as mayor, and attorney Dieter Dammeier.

At issue in the case against Quincey is Lackie Dammeier McGill & Ethir $57,816 billing to the city and Quincey’s efforts to satisfy it. Lackie Dammeier McGill & Ethir represents the union for Upland police officers, the Upland Police Officers Association, of which Moore is a member. It is uncommon for an adversary in a legal dispute, either a defendant or plaintiff, to pay the other side’s attorney fees short of an outcome in the case involving those adversaries or a ruling by the court. City officials and investigators have suggested that the circumstance involving Quincey’s use of his expenditure authority to make payment of public funds to the Lackie Dammeier McGill & Ethir firm touched on extortion or blackmail, given that Quincey had an interest in keeping the Moore matter and his oversight of the Stelzer domestic disturbance incident report from coming to light.

Dieter Dammeier, who carried out the negotiations with Quincey and Adams regarding Moore’s eventual promotion to lieutenant, dismissed any suggestion that he or his firm had blackmailed Quincey.

A settlement payment to an opposing attorney, Dammeier said, “is very standard with civil rights retaliation lawsuits. In any litigation, the losing defendant would have to pay the fees of the opposite party. In this case, John Moore should not have had to pay the fees because he was the one wronged by Robb Quincey. If we had litigated this to trial the city would have paid fees many times what we collected.”

Dammeier said a defendant’s ability to collect attorney fees in a civil rights action is covered under Section 1988 of the U.S. Code.

Information that came out during the arbitration process over Quincey’s claim indicated that Carrillo, the assistant finance director, was responsible for miscoding one of the $25,000 checks to make it appear that it had been written to the firm to cover negotiations with regard to the “don and doff” issue rather than the Moore matter. Carrillo and Quincey had a personal relationship, city officials allege. Carrillo left the city of her own volition two months after Quincey was placed on paid administrative leave in early 2011.

It is believed that Adams and Moore may be able to shed light on the Stelzer report matter.

Thomas, Willis, Musser and Brandt have indicated that there were matters relating to the operation of the city that were given approval solely on the strength of Pomierski’s direction or signature on a city document without the full council being consulted or having voted. To the extent that pattern of conduct is relevant to the accusation that Quincey authorized payment to the Lackie Dammeier McGill & Ethir firm without council approval, their testimony at the preliminary hearing may be sought.

Quincey’s attorney, Charles Michael Zweiback, previously told the Sentinel, Quincey “denies all of the allegations relating to the criminal charges filed by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office on October 19, 2012. Mr. Quincey did not misuse public funds and has been the victim of a completely misguided investigation. Mr. Quincey is innocent of all the charges. He looks forward to his day in court when he can present his case and answer these meritless allegations. A full airing of facts will demonstrate that Mr. Quincey acted appropriately at all times in his role as city manager.”

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