Barb Stanton

Barb Stanton, left, listens to public comment during the Town Council’s special meeting in November. Stanton recently rallied mayoral support away from Victorville Mayor Pro Tem Jim Cox’s election bid to LAFCO after Victorville’s City Council ended its service agreement with VVWRA in April. Stanton said 1st District Supervisor Robert Lovingood threatened completion of the Yucca Loma Corridor project as a result. (James Quigg / Press Dispatch)

By Matthew Cabe and Shea Johnson, Staff Writers
Posted: May. 7, 2016 at 8:46 PM
Updated: May 8, 2016 at 9:15 PM

Victorville’s pullout from a local wastewater agency prompted an official-led campaign against its mayor pro tem, who sought a seat on the Local Agency Formation Commission, the Daily Press has learned.

Apple Valley Mayor Barb Stanton acknowledged two days before Wednesday’s LAFCO election that she’d rallied other mayors in the High Desert to vote against Jim Cox — who ultimately lost 15-3 — and Stanton claims these efforts were met with a threat from a top county official.

Stanton said 1st District Supervisor Robert Lovingood contacted her the day after an April 28 mayors meeting — when local support was pulled — and threatened to nix the completion of the Yucca Loma Corridor project should Stanton not put her support back behind Cox.

“Robert asked me why I’d withdrawn my endorsement for Jim,” Stanton said, “and he said that (the contract cancellation) with VVWRA was just meant to get attention. In the last part of the conversation, Robert said, ‘Chew on this and think about it very carefully. Your bridge will never be built.’”

Stanton said Lovingood was referring to the Green Tree Extension — the final phase of the Yucca Loma Corridor project — which rests in Victorville’s jurisdiction and could include a $12.5 million loan from San Bernardino Associated Governments should the City Council vote to approve a loan agreement SANBAG’s Board of Directors approved last week.

Stanton has since pulled her endorsement of Lovingood’s re-election bid.

“These are the kind of games that make it hard for me to try and do my job,” Stanton said. “I’m mad, disappointed and disgusted. I really want to extend the olive branch and move on from this, (but) … this crap can’t be accepted, period.”

Lovingood said on Friday that he considers Stanton a friend. He called the phone conversation “civil” and “friendly.”

“I told Barb that it would be a shame if political bickering were to scuttle our breakthrough on this critical project,” Lovingood said via email. “My goal is to expand on the progress local elected officials have made in getting beyond petty bickering and cooperating for the good of the entire High Desert.”

Victorville’s City Council unanimously authorized a 30-year notice to terminate its agreement with Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority in April, according to a previous Daily Press report.

The Council cited VVWRA’s “growing debt,” which Councilman Jim Kennedy said runs to the tune of $120 million on about $12 million in annual revenues, and how Victorville provides 60 percent of revenues to the agency yet receives only 25 percent of the Joint Powers Authority vote. Apple Valley, Hesperia and San Bernardino County service areas round out the four-member JPA.

Stanton said Victorville ending its VVWRA agreement and not wanting to work with the JPA could cost the Apple Valley millions of dollars, and she began rallying support against Cox thereafter.

Prior to Victorville’s pullout, Cox saw growing support for the LAFCO primary-member seat between two votes in March and April. Seats are elected by a 24-mayor City Selection Committee.

Rancho Cucamonga City Councilwoman Diane Williams won the first vote 9-8, but Cox took the second 11-10, just two votes shy of the 13 needed to win. During the third vote on Wednesday, five mayors switched votes to Williams after voting for Cox in March and April, according to election results.

Stanton said she urged Rich Kerr in Adelanto, Bill Holland in Hesperia and Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre in Barstow not to endorse Cox as “a show of slow your roll” to Victorville on the VVWRA situation.

Cox told the Daily Press he initially believed he had the 13th and 14th votes after his momentum picked up in April, but added that the third vote was a foregone conclusion once Stanton began advocating for Williams.

“I knew it was over because I had to get 13 (votes),” Cox said. “Because if I were going to lose one vote in the desert, I’m going to lose (the election) anyway.”

To read expanded article, click here.