Campaigns

By Shea Johnson, Staff Writer
Posted:      Oct 19, 2016 at 3:16 PM
Updated:  Oct 19, 2016 at 4:42 PM

In mailers recently sent to voters, 1st District Supervisor Robert Lovingood criticizes Angela Valles’ performance as finance director of the fiscally struggling Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority and claims she pushed Victorville toward bankruptcy while a councilwoman. In her own ad, Valles blasts Lovingood’s handling of the Lamberto prostitution scandal and his hiring of a part-time consultant making $122,000 per year.

The campaign pieces highlight each candidate’s plan of attack just three weeks before the Nov. 8 election. For Lovingood, it’s reducing Valles’ career and policies to a “tax train wreck.” For Valles, it’s framing Lovingood’s first term on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors as one that’s rooted in corruption.

In Lovingood’s train-themed ad, an intact train car is stamped with “Lovingood.” Beneath it is a message of support from fellow Supervisor Curt Hagman under a bold title: “On Track for Taxpayers.” The ad’s flip-side shows a black-and-white image of a wrecked train.

“Higher property taxes, fewer jobs, more ‘fiscal risk,'” it concludes about Valles, suggesting she wants to weaken Proposition 13, mismanaged tax money as the current finance director for VVWRA and repeatedly voted to keep Victorville from paying its bills — including for sheriff protection — as councilwoman from 2010 to 2014.

Valles said Tuesday she didn’t know how her name ended up on a nonprofit grassroots advocacy group’s list of 900 elected officials supporting Proposition 13 reform. She insisted that she supported Prop 13 as it is written. The issue, she said, would fall under state and not local purview anyway.

VVWRA, where she is the financial chief, recently laid off 13 workers or 28 percent of the agency’s workforce due to financial problems. Victorville city leaders also have expressed frustration with the agency’s spending, “growing debt” and management of a major pipeline replacement project.

But Valles brushed off the blame, reiterating that VVWRA relies on wastewater flow for revenue and that a 22-percent drop in such flow since 2010 has caused the agency’s financial hemorrhaging. In 2015, Victorville began diverting roughly a million gallons of wastewater flow per day to the city’s own plant, costing VVWRA $1.2 million in lost revenue in 16 months, agency spokesman David Wylie has said.

Valles, who earns $127,725 yearly, said decisions made by the joint powers authority board — including representatives from Victorville, Apple Valley, Hesperia and the county — fell outside her control and that she had pushed for a hiring freeze, reorganization, project cutbacks and contracting out the VVWRA laboratory as necessary prudent moves.

She also dismissed the claim that she steered Victorville toward bankruptcy during her four-year term on the City Council, saying failed enterprises well before she took a seat on the dais put the city in financial turmoil. In fact, Valles was one of only two Council members — along with current Councilman Ryan McEachron — who supported adding eight new deputy sheriffs for $1.1 million even as the city faced a $4 million deficit. By the time she left the Council in 2014, the city budget had improved into the black.

Her ad, taking a page from former Assembly candidate Michelle Ambrozic, features two images of Valles shooting in the desert — holding a handgun in a larger picture and an assault rifle in a bottom-right insert photograph. It sets out to underscore Valles’ Republican affiliation, and is heavy on GOP themes: She is pro Second Amendment, a “law and order” candidate and “Christian by the grace of God!”

The ad asks voters if they’re tired of lies, corruption and cover-ups, and zeroes in on the county pension being underfunded by $2 billion, suggesting Lovingood has claimed otherwise. It also slams Lovingood’s hire of a part-time consultant and his alleged failure to act amid a state probe into the county’s child welfare agency and the prostitution-related arrest of the county’s now-former human resources director.

About a civil grand jury report that found the Children and Family Services Department marred significantly by under-staffing and a disconnect with law enforcement, Lovingood earlier said it had received his and the other board members’ “full attention.” He vowed to “address any shortcomings that we find” within the agency that has also been castigated by broadcast news reports and accused of negligence as children died.

County Supervisors have already internally broached the prostitution scandal, adopting a policy in December that required leaders to be immediately made aware of any wrongdoings by a county administrator. The policy came after county CEO Greg Devereaux waited seven months to inform the board that since-resigned Human Resources Director Andrew Lamberto had been convicted of misdemeanor soliciting prostitution in Orange County.

“Right or wrong, once everything came out,” Lovingood said Tuesday, “we the board, the policy makers, made the right decision: Andrew was gone.”

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