Adelanto Mayor Rich Kerr (Courtesy photo)

By Joe Nelson | | San Bernardino Sun
January 6, 2018 at 7:00 am

Adelanto City Manager Gabriel Elliott’s recent allegations that Mayor Rich Kerr and two councilmembers repeatedly broke the law and violated the city charter echo allegations by three former longtime employees who are suing the city for wrongful termination.

Following a special meeting of the Adelanto City Council on Dec. 20, Elliott said he was placed on administrative leave after three former employees alleged in claims filed with the city he sexually harassed them. Elliott denies the allegations, calling them a “total fantasy” and “total fabrication.” He said in a recent interview he believes his accusers conspired with Kerr to set him up after Elliott complained of illegal and unethical practices by Kerr and other councilmembers.

Among those complaints include the ill-fated sale of the city’s public works building/emergency operations center last year to a commercial marijuana grower for $1 million, which Elliott said was grossly undervalued and could have sold for five to seven times that amount. The deal ultimately fell through. Elliott, who last month took his complaints to the District Attorney’s Office, also says Kerr commandeered City Hall after being elected to the City Council in November 2014, and along with Councilman John “Bug” Woodard and former Councilman Jermaine Wright worked behind the scenes to get certain employees fired.

“What we have seen over the years is the mayor having direct interaction with staff — directing staff to do certain things,” Elliott said during a recent interview at his Rancho Cucamonga home. “A good portion of the staff believe the mayor runs the city and they call him first. He has inserted his authority. He has hired and fired staff.”

According to the charter, the city’s governing document, the city manager exercises “general control and supervision over the affairs of the city” and is the city’s administrative head. But shortly after taking office, Kerr had City Manager James Hart fired, then moved into his office, Elliott said.

Elliott’s allegations mirror those of three former longtime city employees who have sued the city: Nan Moore, Mike Borja and Belen Cordero. All three are being represented by Victorville attorney James A. Alderson, who was on vacation and unavailable to comment for this story.

“I have no comment at this time due to the status of the lawsuits,” Kerr said in an email, saying he will make a brief statement when the litigation concludes. He has also declined to comment on Elliott’s allegations.

The lawsuits — two filed in September 2016 by Borja and Moore and the third filed last month by Cordero — have a common thread. Each plaintiff alleges Kerr targeted them for termination after he was elected to the City Council in November 2014 and acted in cahoots with Councilman John “Bug” Woodard” and former Councilman Jermaine Wright to fire them.

The councilmen, according to the lawsuits, would often meet in private to discuss terminating the plaintiffs, in violation of the Brown Act, California’s open meeting law. Kerr directed staff to fire the employees, but when the city attorney and city manager refused, citing it was in violation of the city charter, Kerr persisted anyway. City managers and city attorneys who refused to play ball with Kerr, Wright and Woodard were fired, according to the lawsuits, which also note that four city managers and five city attorneys have been fired since Kerr took office in January 2015.

All three employees who are suing the city, Kerr, Woodard and Wright were told budgetary issues were the reason behind their terminations.

Elliott, who was appointed city manager last August, said he faced the same issues with Kerr.

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