“That Political Machine”
By Tommy A. Purvis
A campaign disclosure statement obtained by the Weekly reveals that the upcoming Fontana Unified School District (FUSD) Special Recall Election has been primarily funded by a tract housing developer. Reggie King—the minority shareholder of Young Homes and the owner of Avenal Finance—has contributed $59,675 of the $62,374 raised to recall and replace two outspoken board members.
Some have identified Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren as the force behind the July 16 special election—which will cost the the city’s already underfunded school district $147,000 to hold—after FUSD Board members Leticia Garcia and Sophia Green opposed the city-sponsored afterschool program ran in conjunction with the Boys & Girls Club of Fontana. The recall petition alleges that “Garcia maligned the reputation of a program that capably serves 3,500 students and their families, jeopardizing future funding that provides over 350 jobs.”
“Mr. King has a longstanding relationship with our former superintendent as well as our former mayor, current mayor and other city hall politicians. He has been a campaign contributor to that political machine and it’s obvious that his interest is to protect the status quo and developer fees,” Garcia told the Weekly. “There is no other rational interest in the president and CEO of Young Homes being involved in a school board race. This city should be influenced by the people who bought and live in Young Homes not the people who built them.”
The San Bernardino County Sun reported in April that Warren posted a campaign poster as a Facebook status with a circle that had a line running through the names of Garcia and Green. The message “No Convicted Criminals” was written beside it. Neither board member are convicted criminals.
“This is a real grassroots movement,” Warren told the Sun. “Anybody that sends me a sign, I’m going to post it.”
Garcia told the Weekly that her role in severing the FUSD contract with the City of Fontana and the Boys & Girls Club was was based on what what she described as an increasingly mismanaged After School Safety and Education (ASES) Grant. Garcia says she voted no to extend the contract due to her responsibility to expose waste in spending.
The program managers had spent $1.5 million at 99-cent-type stores for trinkets to encourage daily attendance instead of upgrading curriculum or books, Garcia alleges. The rest of the $3.5 million contract was going to staff salaries. And in many cases they were overstaffed and timecards were incorrect, causing the district to be overbilled.
Former Fontana Mayor and current Yucca Valley Town Manager Mark Nuaimi, former FUSD Board Member Kathy Binks and housing tract developer King all sit on the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Club of Fontana.
King is currently developing a 20-unit, single-family subdivision in the western end of the city that needed approval for 892-foot sewer extension for the subdivision to tap into the city’s existing network. And King also has an interest in on-going litigation regarding short “pass-through” payments from the City of Fontana to the Chaffey Joint Unified School District , Rialto Unified School District and the FUSD.
The lawsuit filed in Sacramento Superior Court alleges the City of Fontana, as the successor to the Fontana Redevelopment Agency (FRA), owes the three school districts up to $6.2 million for their fair share of “pass-through” taxes raised in the North Fontana Redevelopment Project District. The short pay came as a result of the City Manager Ken Hunt using the wrong base year to calculate the totals.
The lawsuit alleges that Alex Alvarez, FUSD’s associate superintendent for business services, made numerous efforts to put the base year calculation issue on the agenda so the Fontana Oversight Board could discuss it. His efforts were reportedly thwarted by then-board member Binks.
“Our consultants tell us we are using the correct year,” Fontana City Manager Ken Hunt told the Sun prior to the lawsuit’s filing. “Their consultants say differently.”
In the middle of last decade an audit by the Department of Housing and Community Development found that the FRA “had underfunded low and moderate income housing efforts” in place of “ineligible neighborhood beautification projects.”
“There is no quid pro quo related to any development,” Fontana City Finance Manager Lisa Strong told the Weekly when asked about the influence of King in considering the funding or the approval of projects.