Dissent in the Desert

By Tommy A. Purvis

Posted May 23, 2013 in News

(web)newsA recall effort targetting two members of the Yucca Valley town council picks up steam

The big redevelopment dreams that Town Manager Mark Nuiami has for Yucca Valley are catching up with the town’s dwindling reserves. But even worse things could be on the horizon for the polarizing figure that has caught the ire of a fiscally conservative watchdog group. Two of his hand-picked minions on the town council—Robert Lombardo and George Huntington—are now subject to an increasingly contentious recall effort in this dusty Morongo Basin town.

The pair that was elected last fall after being the only names on the ballot joined the Nuiami-influenced Dawn Rowe and Merle Able on the council. Together the influential voting bloc is affectionately known as the Sky Harbor Four to the muckraking blog Cactus Thorns (“Irreverent Barbs on Desert Politics”). The blog credits the name of the influential group of “gullible newbies” on the town council for all being from the high-income part of town.

“The town manager responds to policy directions from the town council,” Deputy Town Clerk Lesley Copeland told the Weekly when she was asked about the recall effort and the relationship that Lombardo and Huntington have with Nuiami.

The small town manager has an annual contract worth nearly $300,000. The perks include a cafeteria benefit for $1,050 per month, along with a $600 monthly vehicle allowance. The town council can void his contract with a simple majority vote. Concerned Citizens, the group behind the recall effort are intent on replacing Lombardo and Huntington “to provide a majority which could begin to change town policy and actions for the better.”

Currently the lone voice of dissent on the small town dais comes from Bob Leone. The community-backed council member has an open-door policy with his constituents. He won a special election in the spring by soundly defeating the president of the Yucca Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Jennifer Collins, who also lives in Sky Harbor, has been branded as being the mouthpiece for the Nuiami agenda. She was the  head of  a committee that supported a failed measure to raise the sales tax in Yucca Valley—a measure that critics allege would have been used to fund pet projects. After Collins’ election defeat, the summer concert series and swimming lessons for children were canceled—with the support of the Sky Harbor Four—citing budget restrictions.

Nuiami—the former mayor of Fontana who also simultaneously served as the former assistant city manager of Colton until he left for the his current job three years ago—is still feeling the sting of being the so-called brainchild behind a controversial one-cent sales tax known as Measure U. The tax increase that was projected to generate $100 million for the Yucca Valley budget over the next 30 years by influential IE economist John Husing was improbably defeated last fall.

The No on Measure U group was able to win despite being outspent 30 to 1 by Nuiami-influenced special interests. The town manager told the residents that the tax increase was necessary to build a wastewater treatment plant. The self-described  group known as the “Truth Posse” instead told voters that all of the revenues from Measure U will go directly into the town’s general fund to be used for “funding unnecessary projects, hiring expensive out-of-town consultants and raising staff salaries.”

For its effort the group won the Outstanding Whistle Blower award, an award from Tax Fighters United and another from a group known as Boot out the RINOs (Republicans in Name Only). Many of these same activists are mobilizing to support the recall effort. As a result Nuiami’s days as the Yucca Valley town manager may be numbered.




    Thanks for the post about Dissent in the Desert. There is one typo in your excellent report on our recall effort, change “Susan” Collins to read Jennifer Collins. Permission to cross post?

    BTW-Winning the prestigious OWB award from Tax Fighters United AND Boot out the Rinos really made my day!

    Joseph Sullivan

    What a remarkable svengali this Mark Nuiami seems to be…

    Seems that everyone within his sphere of influence is under his “evil” spell.

    What a bunch of “bovine excrement” Tommy A. Purvis spreads in his hit-piece on just about everyone currently elected (by the people, btw) or appointed to run the Town of Yucca Valley.

    Nuiami was somehow able to “hand-pick” George Huntington and Robert Lombardo for the Town Council?… REALLY? I thought that Mr. Huntington was recently ELECTED in the November 2012 General Election – after serving previously in that same elected position. Similarly, Robert Lombardo was ALSO ELECTED in that same November 2012 election – after serving for several years on the local Planning Commission…

    How does Purvis get such a straight-forward set of facts so screwed-up?

    Oh wait, just a couple lines later – Purvis makes a passing reference to their election “…last fall after being the only names on the ballot joining the Nuiami-influenced Dawn Rowe and Merle Abel on the council.”

    What a chrystal-clear look into the disjointed thought process of Tommy A. Purvis… Mr. Purvis – the FACT that there were no other names on the ballot tells your readers all they need to know about your brand of journalism. Your malcontented friends who are the proponents of this recall had every opportunity to run in that same election! After all – the infamous “Measure U” was also on that same ballot! What an opportunity for dissatisfied candidates to step forward and offer themselves as the “reform candidates” for election then? The FACT that they chose not to oppose Huntington and Lombardo shines a very dim light on themselves – but certainly not on those who put their names into the hands of the VOTERS. Now, they’re back 7 months later with this “recall scheme”? You really need to apply some linear logic (common sense) before writing some of this stuff, Purvis!

    As for Mr. Leone being the “lone voice of dissent”… The readers might be surprised to know that Mr. Leone is singing out of both sides of his mouth as to the subject of this recall. He has told individual town council members that he does not support the recall – but he can’t seem to bring himself to publicly acknowledge that… What a lion of plain of politics!

    Where people choose to live within any community is nobody’s business but their own. Envy is one of the “seven deadly sins”, Mr. Purvis. Anyone who tries to impune the character of others on the basis of where they live (btw – within the Town’s incorporated boundries) shows the community that personalizing this recall scheme in places like the Inland Empire Weekly is one thing – but I don’t quite get why you would quote from a source (Cactus Thornes) that you – yourself – describe as a “muckracking blog”.

    An objective reader would be left wondering how you are all so obviously infested by the same fleas…

    I will agree with you on one point, Mr. Purvis – that it is essentially the same “crowd” who pursues this “recall scheme” who were behind the “No on Measure U” effort in November 2012. Maybe you might find it newsworthy to investigate the reassurances (promises?) these same people made to the community in the “afterglow” of its defeat to bring an “improved” measure back before the voters by March of 2013? Maybe I missed it… How did that work out for the Town of Yucca Valley.

    Joseph Sullivan
    Yucca Valley, CA

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