Rough and Tumble

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 – 09:00 a.m.

There’s no disputing that San Bernardino County politics functions like no other.

The latest behind-the-scenes tug-o-war at San Bernardino City Hall is another sleazy example.

Remember a couple of months ago when Mayor Carey Davis wanted City Manager Allen Parker’s head on a plate?

At the time, Davis was upset with Parker for not lobbying the City Council to support a new sweetheart contract for his now Former Chief of Staff Michael McKinney’s firm MICA-PR. In return Davis tried to blame Parker for dragging out the city’s bankruptcy proceedings, even though Parker really hadn’t been in his position for most of the process. The City Council backed Parker and embarrassed Davis, who’s had a rough go at the Mayor position, since his election little more than a year ago.

But it would seem the Davis-Parker blowup has abated.

The bankrupt city has been in the process of hiring a public relations firm to improve its image.

Now that process is under scrutiny.

Parker, apparently at Davis’ behest, has, until recently, been pimping a $220,000-plus contract with Westbound Communications. An Orange County-based firm reportedly involved in Davis’ election.

Interestingly, Westbound was the highest, not lowest, responsible bidder. But hyped-up claims that Westbound is a local firm, border on the ridiculous. Several business directory websites list the Orange County-based firm as having an address at a Golden Avenue, San Bernardino, residence.

How the city can logically-rationalize this scheme remains to be seen.

But bond insurer, and city creditor, Ambac Assurance, might not be so amused. Especially since the city is trying to shaft the municipal bond insurer out of tens of millions of dollars in unsecured pension obligation bond payments.

Westbound has grudgingly-withdrawn from contention. But the backroom hard ball tactics played on Westbound’s behalf is interesting.

Insiders say significant pressure was brought to bear on city council members to support Westbound. One local businessman, and Davis supporter, reportedly went as far as holding an alleged DUI stop over the head of Councilman Benito Barrios.

A play that didn’t workout too well.

Barrios didn’t support Westbound. The purported DUI information was, as promised, dropped to local newspapers. There was a newspaper story on the issue. But that story confirmed the info wasn’t true.

There was no DUI incident.

One question being asked? Was the Westbound contract a way of finding Davis’ former chief of staff a job?