Will Apple Valley become California’s Flint, MI? (October 18, 2016)
The town of Apple Valley, California, deep in the heart of the Victor Valley of San Bernardino County, has a ballot initiative battle grappling with accountability for bond debt. But it’s gotten political with citizens claiming elected members of the Apple Valley Town Council have ceased making decisions in the best interests of their community.
Nearly 4,000 Apple Valley residents signed petitions to bring Measure V to the Nov. 8 ballot to require voter approval of any Town project of $10 million or more, including the Town Council’s attempt to take over the existing Liberty Utilities’ water system.
The citizen-initiated Measure V, called the
Right to Vote on Debt Act, was also unanimously approved by the Town Council to be on the Nov. ballot. But then the so-called Republican Apple Valley Town Council pulled a fast one and initiated and passed its own ballot Measure W, to compete with Measure V. San Francisco law firm Remcho, Johansen & Purcell was hired by the Apple Valley Town Council to write the alternative measure. This law firm represents the California Democratic Party, and wrote Gavin Newsom’s anti-gun measure Proposition 63.
If passed, Measure W would allow the town to continue its water system eminent domain acquisition efforts unencumbered by another election.
The town council’s Measure W would allow for some oversight, but specifically with acquisition of the water system excluded from voter approval.
The small print of the town council’s measure also finds that voter approval would in fact not apply if the Town Council
- conducts a public hearing prior to issuing public debt;
- certifies that projected revenues from the enterprise exceed the debt payments proposed;
- certifies that debt will not be paid by the taxing power of the town; and
- requires an annual independent audit to ensure that the proceeds of the debt are utilized in connection with the enterprise only.
Town Council Uses Taxpayer Funds for Campaign
Town Council-initiated Measure W proponents say the citizens’ Measure V
would slow the political process by requiring voter approval for other projects.
However, the Apple Valley Town Council has taken it one step further and used public taxpayer dollars to fund their campaign for Measure W.
The town has also paid more than $50,000 to a Sacramento-based law firm for advice services related to Measure W.
Apple Valley recently issued its October-December
Our Town newsletter, which is taxpayer-funded, to undermine the citizen-qualified initiative Measure V. This newsletter misrepresents and provides the voters of Apple Valley with a false comparison of the Town Council’s Measure W, and the People’s Voter-Approval Measure V.
It is illegal for the Town Council to expend any of its taxpayer resources to advocate for Measure W’s passage or against Measure V’s passage.
While the Newsletter lists a number of alleged
public concerns regarding the provision of water services to the citizens of Apple Valley, the striking difference between Measures V and W is that the Apple Valley Town Council measure is nothing more than an attempt to undermine the initiative qualified by the 4,000 Apple Valley residents. The newsletter is neither impartial nor merely informational as the law demands.
When shenanigans like this take place, public trust in elected officials wanes.
Flint, Michigan and Apple Valley, California
Adding to the issues surrounding the dubious Measure W, The Apple Valley Citizens for Government Accountability has released a report exposing recently uncovered Flint Journal articles which show Apple Valley Assistant Town Manager for Finance, Marc Puckett, resigned from his position as Director of Finance for the City of Flint, MI, after it was shown that he had failed to transfer money to the city’s pension fund for two years, costing Flint taxpayers $1.1 million dollars. A subsequent independent audit of Puckett’s Finance Department showed widespread mismanagement and a lack of transparency which ultimately cost taxpayers, according to the Apple Valley Citizens for Government Accountability, a citizen’s watchdog group.
Puckett’s actions contributed to financial disaster and the ultimately poisoned water in Flint, says the Apple Valley Citizens for Government Accountability.
The Apple Valley Citizens for Government Accountability, released the report in September detailing alarming information about Marc Puckett, that raises questions of credibility for the Town government, and the Council’s push for the eminent domain acquisition of Liberty Utilities.
Flint Journal articles published between 1999 and 2000 showed that Puckett’s behavior in Flint shows a frightening pattern that is evident today in how he handles Apple Valley residents’ tax dollars. He demonstrates an utter lack of transparency, and crafts budgets that we have routinely called a
shell game for the way they obscure spending, said Diana J. Carloni, an Apple Valley resident and local attorney.
Flint Mayor Woodrow Stanley, was recalled two years after Puckett’s resignation, largely because of the financial mess his administration had left the City in.
It was actually under Puckett’s tenure as Finance Director that Flint water bills from its city-owned water utility soared, with some residents experiencing a ten-fold increase, the report found.
Puckett went on to serve as Finance Director of the City of Costa Mesa for ten years, before being put on leave, and mysteriously resigning soon after, according to the Apple Valley Citizens for Government Accountability report.
Did the Town Council know of his history, and how can we trust what Puckett is putting out there if he has been so elusive about his past history? asked Katie Manning, a member of the watchdog group’s leadership committee.
This news should certainly put a damper on the Town of Apple Valley’s assurances that they can handle taking over the privately owned water company, and their newly announced plans to become the Town’s electrical provider.
In September, Puckett presented the third in a series of transparency reports detailing the cost of the town’s acquisition efforts of Liberty Utilities, Apple Valley’s water system, the vvdailypress reported:
The 10-page report — first compiled more than a year ago by staff at the Council’s request — illustrates several financial numbers from Jan. 1, 2011, through the end of Aug. 2016, with $974,205 spent on attorney costs and a possible future expenditure estimate of $3.5 million.
The rates in Apple Valley are more than twice of what they are in Hesperia and the surrounding communities of Victorville, Adelanto and Barstow,Puckett said.Our water rates are excessively high. That is a complaint that we have continuously fielded from our residents.
The transparency report revealed the town paid more than $47,000 for the advice services of Remcho, Johansen & Purcell LLC. The Daily Press previously reported that the services were related to Measure W, the town’s alternative to Measure V, the Liberty Utilities-backedRight to Vote on Debt Act.
Lawyers Gaming Taxpayers?
In 2008, the Apple Valley Town Council selected John E. Brown, a partner in the law firm of Best Best & Krieger, to serve as town attorney. Best Best & Krieger is the same law firm which represented the city of Bell and were sued twice for failing to properly advise Bell on a $35-million bond offering in 2007. Bell’s top city officials including the mayor, four city council members, and the former city administrator were convicted on graft and corruption charges and sentenced to prison.
BB&K Attorney Brown has been overseeing the eminent domain acquisition of Liberty Utilities.
Interestingly, Mr. Brown is not alone. City of Claremont Attorney Sonia Carvahlo is also a partner of Best, Best & Krieger, the same law firm promoting an eminent domain takeover for the City of Claremont’s water system enterprise.
What could the motive be? Best, Best & Krieger partners have a financial interest and have and stand to generate substantial billings if the eminent domain takeover moves forward.
John Brown is also the City Attorney for other cities. From his bio:
He is the city attorney of Ontario, California, the town attorney of the Town of Apple Valley, California and Interim City Attorney of the City of La Habra Heights, California. He has served as the city attorney for cities throughout California since 1976.
Mr. Brown also acts as general counsel for a variety of other public agencies. He has served as general counsel to the Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District for more than 30 years and also acts as general counsel to the Hi-Desert Water District.
Citizens for Government Accountability member Greg Raven characterized the town’s efforts as an
insane jihad against Liberty, who financially backed Measure V and the signature-gathering process, the Victorville Daily Press reported.
Measure W is nothing more than restatement of current law.
Measure V is simple – it’s about the right to vote on long-term debt, and does not prevent capital improvement projects for Apple Valley’s infrastructure. It was specifically written to exempt improvements to parks, streets, bridges and other community needs. It only applies to bonds for revenue generating enterprises like water or sewer services.
Behaving more like left-wing, big government politicians, the Apple Valley Town Council maintains opposition to Measure V because it goes beyond the town councils’ plans to acquire the Apple Valley water system, and would cover other projects the town may want in the future. And they don’t want voter approval for acquisition of any enterprise that incurs public debt over $10 million.
No voter approval for debt which taxpayers are on the hook for means no accountability for elected politicians.
Source: Katy Grimes, FlashReport.com
Files dealing with Marc Puckett
- 19920114 Minutes of a special meeting of the city council for the City of East Detroit, Macomb County, Michigan
- 19920225 Minutes of a special meeting of the city council for the City of East Detroit, Macomb County, Michigan
- 19920303 Minutes of a special meeting of the city council for the City of East Detroit, Macomb County, Michigan
- 19920305 Minutes of a special meeting of the city council for the City of East Detroit, Macomb County, Michigan
- 19920319 Minutes of a special meeting of the city council for the City of East Detroit, Macomb County, Michigan
- 19920623 Minutes of a special meeting of the city council for the City of East Detroit, Macomb County, Michigan
- 19960111 Retirement firm accuses official of favoritism
- 19960403 Folks soaked by water bills may get relief
- 19960920 Marc Puckett’s red light ticket
- 19990130 $9-million pension fund transfer raises questions
- 19990202 Retirement panel urges ‘immediate’ audit of plan
- 19990203 Retirement board splits over need for independent manager
- 19990203 Finance director resigns under fire of pension flap
- 19990210 Former finance director lashes back at critics, hints suit
- 19990224 Flint to boost pension fund
- 19990319 Flint sent tax funds to wrong units
- 19990326 Ex-finance director cashes in on $6,000 in unused vacation time
- 19990330 Flint could owe state millions some industrial facilities taxes have not been paid since 1996
- 19990408 Stanley acts on money woes, appoints new finance chief
- 19990411 Stanley must share blame as part of his plan to fix city’s financial woes
- 19990909 Audit details shortfalls in financial procedures
- 20100219 Personal injury complaint against Marc Puckett
- 20100408 Answer of defendant, Marc R. Puckett, to plaintiffs’ complaint
- 20101227 New finance director to step down
- 20101228 Marc Puckett out — Again
- 20101230 Leadership turmoil
- 20110104 The world according to John Moorlach
- 20110110 City faces $231,000 deficit
- 20110113 Interim finance director named
- 20110210 Marc Puckett’s speeding ticket
- 201102405 Marc Puckett’s ticket for stopping on a red signal
- 20110817 Marc Puckett’s ticket for no license plate
- 20120309 Marc Puckett’s Orange County accident case information
- 20120425 Marc Puckett’s speeding ticket
- 20120703 Marc Puckett’s speeding ticket
- 20140724 Marc Puckett’s speeding ticket
- 20141124 Marc Puckett’s ticket for coasting out of gear
- 20141205 Marc Puckett’s ticket for speeding
- 20150529 Marc Puckett’s ticket for improper use of preferred lane
- Comments for tonight’s council meeting
- The innumerate Mr. Puckett
- Shill crazy after all these years
- Earth to Puckett!
- About those awards
- One PRR story: American Express (CC)
- 20160913 Documents link top Apple Valley official to #FlintWaterCrisis
- 20160913 Investigation: Flint / Apple Valley Connection
- 20160915 Economic Speech (Trump)
- 20161018 Will Apple Valley become California’s Flint, MI?
- 20170319 Trump EPA grants Michigan $100 million to fix Flint water system
- 20170320 Sinkhole: Effort to replace pipes to Flint homes off to slow start
- 20170806 Vehicle belonging to AV town manager involved in hit-and-run
- He’s gonna need a good lawyer
- 20170809 Apple Valley official believes Liberty could have followed him before crash
- Public trust destroyed (Carloni)
- 20170907 Hit-and-run investigation involving Marc Puckett’s Cadillac sent to DA
- 20171010 Marc Puckett’s speeding ticket
- A question of character
- 20171206 Apple Valley Finance Director Marc Puckett charged with felony hit-and-run
- 20171206 A long wait for crash victim
- 20171117 A history of infractions
- 20171207 Apple Valley Finance Director Marc Puckett on personal leave after felony hit-and-run charge filed
- 20171214 Apple Valley Finance Director Marc Puckett pleads not guilty to felony hit-and-run charge
- 20171214 I-15 crash victim seeks $2M in damages from Apple Valley
- 20171219 Editorial: Passing the Puck (Valles)
- 20171228 Town Hall position not a factor in Puckett’s custody status, attorney says
- 20180105 Puckett forced out as Apple Valley’s Assistant Manager & Finance Director
- 20180109 Tin Cup Men (Valles)
- 20180116 Puckett’s dismissal just what the town needed (Valles)
- 20180307 Puckett deposition set for mid-April in town’s eminent domain case
- 20180425 Pre-plea report ordered in Puckett’s felony case
Files related to Claremont
- 20150308 Acquiring AVRWC is right move for Apple Valley
- 20150314 Expense of possible AVRWC acquisition difficult to gauge
- 20150514 Claremont Water System — Supplement to 2012 Appraisal Report
- 20150905 Letter: Lawyers, water, and money (O’Neil)
- 20150918 TOAV fires back at Coupal
- 20150923 Editorial: Water, takeovers, and the people
- 20151015 Cities and private equity firms fight over ownership of water systems
- 20160712 Public records request (Manning)
- 20160721 Conflict of interest (Manning)
- 20160904 Letter: Peter Allen supporting Measure V (Nassif)
- 20161012 Claremont Set To Raise Rates For Utilities
- 20161018 Will Apple Valley become California’s Flint, MI?
- 20161110 Statement of tentative decision (Claremont v. Golden State Water)
- 20161110 Judge issues tentative decision against city in water system acquisition trial (Claremont v. Golden State Water)
- 20161114 Measures V and W
- 20161115 Polls and votes
- 20161116 Another false narrative
- 20161116 Liberty sees Claremont’s eminent-domain loss as sign of things to come in Apple Valley
- 20161121 Voters show they want a say in water takeover issue (Hanson)
- 20161215 Another costly day for Apple Valley
- 20161218 Time to pay attention: An open letter to Larry Cusack
- 20170111 Claremont city manager getting a $21,000 bonus
- 20170114 Price tag for Claremont’s failed attempt to take over water system keeps rising
- 20170115 Our View: Time for foes to sit down and talk
- Time for the Town Council to listen for a change
- Response to Thomas Lecoq (Carloni)
- Time for a second opinion? (Carloni)
- 20170209 Avoiding the Claremont disaster (video)
- 20170213 Valley Voices: Apple Valley would be wise to work with Liberty Utilities (Wright)
- 20170216 James Belna on the Claremont eminent domain disaster (video)
- 20170220 Claremont resident talks [about] avoiding ‘disaster’ in Apple Valley
- 20170220 Conflict of interest
- 20170220 Letter: Response to Thomas Rice (Belna)
- 20170226 Letter: James Belna’s visit (Hanson)
- 20170226 Letter: Rice rebuttal (Trozpek)
- Claremont public records request
- Truth not tricks (Carloni)
- Comments to the Town Council opposing the ballot measure
- 20170314 Town Council meeting (McCarthy)
- 20170322 Skewing the facts (Hanson)
- 20170323 Letter: Sit down and settle (Henard)
- 20170406 Guest commentary: Government takeovers of water systems don’t deliver results — study
- Who pays?
- Responding to claims made on Facebook
- 20170508 Liberty Utilities radio ad — Claremont (audio)
- Not paying attention
- 20171010 Claremont reaches $4.8 million settlement agreement with Golden State Water
- 20171017 Claremont settlement reignites Apple Valley water war
- 20171026 Claremont cuts ties with its city attorney, law firm