Resident sues Apple Valley (May 25, 2015)

Woman alleges lack of transparency by officials

APPLE VALLEY — Alleging that the town of Apple Valley’s actions are reminiscent of those that fostered corruption scandals in Bell and Irwindale, an Apple Valley woman filed a lawsuit against the town last week.

Leane Lee accuses town officials of violating the U.S. and state constitutions, California’s Public Records Act, Proposition 218 and of engaging in a shell game with residents to keep them from seeing how taxpayer money is being spent.

Lee also accuses the town of misusing attorney-client privilege to prevent the public from learning how public funds are being used or transferred.

Her civil lawsuit was filed in San Bernardino Superior Court on Wednesday. A hearing has been scheduled Nov. 17 in the same court.

Apple Valley spokeswoman Kathie Martin said we can’t comment on litigation at all.

Town Attorney John Brown did not respond to an email or phone message seeking comment on Friday. Martin said in a text message that she recalled seeing a claim denied, but added that’s all I would be able to tell you at this time.

The Daily Press also left a telephone message seeking comment from Town Manager Frank Robinson on Saturday.

Lee said she requested accounting records and contracts from the town but was provided only some of them. That prompted her lawsuit.

Having asked for copies of contracts, invoices and warrants that are seemingly related to the town’s exploration of acquiring Apple Valley Ranchos Water Company, Lee asks the Town to produce the additional records, to account for wire transfers on the public warrant register and to remove the ability of the town manager to approve personal services contracts up to $150,000.

Lee also questions in her filing the use of reimbursements to the town attorney for third-party services provided for the town’s benefit and incorrectly categorizing those ‘other’ services as ‘legal services.’

My concern is the lack of transparency, Lee said Friday.

She said the requests for the mass of records comprise her first attempt at requesting public records.

I would not say they are all related, except they all relate to the expenditure of funds, Lee said.

She said she doesn’t expect to get the records she requested until after the Nov. 17 court hearing.

In her 18-page filing, Lee says the conduct of the public’s business should not be a game of hide and seek with the public funds and records … She further says the town’s demonstrated patterns of behavior, in violation of the public’s rights, and in spite of the claims of being transparent, have shown complete contempt for transparency.

In her lawsuit, Lee also accuses the town of attempting to dissuade citizens from seeking public records, or examining the financial transactions of Respondent (the Town) …

She asks the court to force Apple Valley officials to immediately provide the records she has requested and to adhere to all state laws and government codes mentioned in her filing.

Source: Steve Hunt and Gary Brodeur, Daily Press