When First District candidate Angela Valles filed her second complaint against Supervisor Robert “Bob” Lovingood with the Fair Political Practices Commission and San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Division, “politics as usual” could be heard echoing throughout the high desert. The significance and meat of the complaint was clearly lost on most casual observers and even long-time politicos.
Since the beginning of Lovingood’s tenure as county supervisor in Dec. 2012, rumors have been surfacing about him using his office to financially benefit his personal business and aid his clients, not his constituents. The rumors were only bolstered when he hired a staff completely void of anyone who understood or was capable of dealing with the complex issues high desert residents face.
Instead, Lovingood hired “feel good” staff to attend community events, shake hands, kiss babies, and hand out certificates. Many, if not all, of those staff members had connections to his business, ICR Staffing, or its clients.
Even after three-plus years, his staff members know little about how government works or how to resolve constituent complaints. Complex land-use issues, for example, are above their heads. He is the most ineffectual supervisor in memory.
Over the course of more than three years, additional credence was given to the thought that Lovingood is only concerned about ICR as the issues facing his clientele are the issues he brings to the forefront, such as mining and trash removal. All the while the first district has taken hit after hit with businesses leaving, rising crime, and few jobs created that are not minimum wage.
The rumors are something this reporter has been investigating since the beginning with little to show for it due to Lovingood keeping his client list secret. It did not seem we had any chance of determining if he is, in fact, violating conflict of interest laws.
It was only recently that anyone realized that Lovingood is in violation of conflict of interest reporting laws. It should be noted that we are accusing him of violating reporting laws at this point, not an actual conflict of interest. We cannot make a determination until he properly reports his conflicts.
The revelation came about as a result of an unrelated case. Yes, it was one of his opponents who jumped on this issue once discovered and filed the complaint, but there are many other first district residents who would have done the same had Valles not beat them to it. They are not running for office.
Lovingood tries to hide behind the fact that he says he handed the operation of his business over to his wife, Melanie Lovingood. There is a lot of evidence to suggest Lovingood still has his hand in the day-to-day operations of his business, but that situation aside, California is a community property state. And, according to his financial disclosure forms, Lovingood and his wife bring in more than $400,000 in annual income from his business.
To suggest that he can separate himself from his clients when he is voting on county contracts that affect those same clients is ludicrous. And to vote on such contracts is also illegal.
So, let me make this very clear. Lovingood is in violation of conflict of interest reporting laws. The 12 forms he has filled out do not give him the option of not reporting community property. The form states that any source of income the business received from a single source over $10,000 must be reported individually, including the name of that source. Until we know those sources, we cannot determine if he has committed the bigger crime of conflict of interest, a 1090 violation.
It was several years ago that members of the Public Integrity Unit of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office showed up at the home of Margie and Jim Miller in Grand Terrace. They executed a search warrant and Jim Miller went to jail.
Why? Jim Miller was a Grand Terrace City Councilman. His wife owned a local adjudicated paper that ran both legal advertisements and other ad campaigns for the city. When it was time to approve payment to her, which was a bulk approval of all the payments to all vendors the city was making that day, Miller voted to approve the ledger payments. It was a conflict of interest. His vote landed him in jail and he had to resign. He can never hold public office again.
When the state legislature passed conflict of interest laws, it was serious about cutting down on corruption. Government Code Section 1090 violations are considered serious and are a significant violation of the public trust. This is not an issue to chalk up to “politics as usual.” It may become a serious criminal matter if he voted on any contracts involving his clients.
Lovingood feels he is above the law. Both his campaign finance reports and his conflict of interest statements show a pattern of being incomplete. He has had to amend them all repeatedly to stay one step ahead of law enforcement officials.
That brings me to one final point about the seriousness of the Valles complaint. She provided byteclay.com with the letter from the District Attorney’s office and other documentation from District Attorney Mike Ramos that clearly show Lovingood is under criminal investigation for his conflicts of interest.
byteclay.com sent an email to Christopher Lee, Public Information Officer for District Attorney Mike Ramos regarding several concerns. His response read in part, “It should be clearly understood that whether someone is a supporter of the District Attorney or vice versa, the bottom line is that this Office will continue to hold any individual who breaks the law accountable for his or her actions. We both know that the DA’s track record clearly shows he’s not afraid to charge elected officials if there is criminal activity taking place.”
After a follow-up email from byteclay.com regarding the amount of time the investigation has taken and other issues, Lee replied, “I understand your concerns. I can’t say much more because this complaint is part of an ongoing review. Until that process is complete, we are not able to discuss the matter.”
We understand that the District Attorney’s office is conducting an investigation and cannot discuss it at this time. That is no reason for voters to ignore the complaint as “politics as usual.”