Former Upland Planner Lawyers Up In Face Of Questioning

Posted By Staff

San Bernardino County Sentinel

by Mark Gutglueck, 8/12/11 – The San Bernardino County Sentinel

Former Upland community development director Jeff Bloom has so far refused to submit to questioning by investigators looking into allegations of illegal or inappropriate activity at City Hall and/or  in the police department, the Sentinel has learned.

Bloom insisted on having a lawyer present before talking to investigators, and at press time, the Yorba Linda-based investigation and legal services firm retained by the city to look into the actions of former police chief Steve Adams has not been able to conduct an intended interview with Bloom, which would be the final element needed to complete the long-awaited report on Adams. It was unclear whether the delay was a result of Bloom having not yet obtained a lawyer or whether the delay was an outgrowth of investigators and his lawyer not having been able to schedule a time and setting to conduct the questioning.

Two separate clouds hang over Adams, who has been out on paid stress leave from his $306,621 per year job since early December.

One of those pertains to his having bureaucratically buried a police report about a domestic disturbance incident on July 27, 2008 that involved former city manager Robb Quincey and Quincey’s one-time girlfriend, Jennifer Seltzer. That report, authored by officer Craig Sipple under the supervision of then-sergeant John Moore, originally ran to eight pages and called for the matter to be referred to the district attorney’s office for a decision on a possible prosecution. In a departure from department protocol, that report was diverted from the department’s incident file into a drawer in Adams’ own personal desk, which eliminated the possibility of the matter being publicly revealed, and was instead shortened to six pages and had the recommendation of a referral to the prosecutor’s office changed to a status of “exceptional clearance.” Moore, who is now a lieutenant, in January 2010 claimed he had been pressured by both Quincey and Adams to destroy the original version of the report but had refused. There are reports that the FBI has a copy of both the original report and the one alleged to have been altered by Adams.

Adams also stands accused of having aided and abetted former Upland mayor John Pomierski in his efforts to extort the owners of the Chronic Cantina, Robert Mills and Scott Schaller. According to a lawsuit filed in federal court, the city closed down the Chronic Cantina, a nightclub/restaurant located at the northeast corner of Central Avenue and Ninth Street, in April 2009 on the basis of data that had been falsified by the police department to show the nightspot was beset by an inordinate amount of illegal activity and law enforcement attention, including incidents of public intoxication, three driving under the influence arrests, the discharge of a firearm, two carjackings, four auto thefts, nine thefts, 17 assaults and two attempted murders. The lawsuit, filed by the owner-operators of the Chronic Cantina, alleges Adams participated in an effort to attribute several incidents that occurred elsewhere to the Chronic Cantina or its customers as a deliberate ploy to interfere in the operation of the establishment. On March 2, 2011, a week after he resigned from the city council, Pomierski was indicted on federal conspiracy, bribery and extortion charges. Pomierski’s business partner and appointee to the city housing commission, John Hennes, was indicted along with him. Previous to that, Jason Crebs and Anthony Sanchez, two of Pomierski’s business associates, were charged with abetting Pomierski in the crime of bribery. The charges against Pomierski, Hennes, Crebs and Sanchez pertain to Crebs, Sanchez and Hennes’ involvement in a scheme in which they conveyed Pomierski’s extortion demands to Mills and Schaller as well as the proprietor of another Upland business, Aaron Sandusky of G3 Holistics, and collected money on behalf of the former mayor.

The conspiracy detailed in the indictment consisted of Hennes using his position as a member of the Building Appeals Board and Crebs and Sanchez using their status as consultants to conceal the bribes as consultation fees to thus insulate and protect Pomierski.

In return for the payments provided by Mills and Schaller and Sandusky, Pomierski was to use his own authority as well as his access to other Upland city officials both elected and appointed to obtain favorable treatment for the nightclub and the G3 medical marijuana clinic in the permitting and approval processes. According to the indictment, Mills, unbeknownst to Pomierski, Hennes, Sanchez or Crebs, was cooperating with the FBI, which included providing  $35,000 in marked money to Pomierski through the three others. Also, according to the indictment, Pomierski demanded $20,000 from Sandusky, and Sandusky paid Sanchez $10,000 which was then passed along to Hennes. Sandusky’s failure to fully provide the requested $20,000 prompted a complaint from Pomerski that Sandusky “came up short” when he did not make a second $10,000 payment, according to the indictment.

In 2005, Pomierski succeeded in having the remainder of the city council endorse his hiring of Robb Quincey as city manager. Quincey was given absolute authority over city staff, including the power to terminate any of the city’s department heads without cause and at his sole discretion. He became the vicar of Pomierski’s policy. Pomierski enjoyed similar sway over another key element of the city’s land use function, the planning commission, on which five of that panel’s seven members were Pomierski appointees. Hennes, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office, stated that Pomierski dictated all of the planning commission’s decisions. He had similar autonomy over the city’s housing commission and building appeals board, possessing the authority to appoint or remove members at will.

In the aftermath of Pomierski’s indictment, those through whom his power over the city’s land use and enforcement authority radiated have seen their tenures with the city terminated. Quincey was fired in May, four months after he was placed on administrative leave. At the end of June, Jeff Bloom, who had overseen land use issues in Upland as the city’s community development director for more than a decade and throughout Pomierski’s time as mayor, was shown the door as part of a reorganization that saw three city department head positions, including personnel director, and public works director, consolidated with other management posts. Technically, Bloom remains on the payroll as a consultant while the transition of duties is finalized.

Adams’ eight month-and-counting absence  while he remains employed as police chief is unprecedented in the city’s history. For several months now, members of the city council have been anxious to resolve his status, one way or the other, and either have him return to the police department, voluntarily retire or be terminated on grounds that leave the city with no liability. Because Adams has not taken the initiative to retire and because of his closeness to Quincey, along with his involvement in the questionable disposition of the matter involving the report of the Quincey domestic disturbance incident including Moore’s allegations about being pressured to destroy the report as well as the accusations that Adams had involved himself and the police department in Pomierki’s efforts to shakedown individuals with business or operating permit applications at City Hall, the city has hired Norman A. Traub Associates, an independent firm employing former police executives, attorneys and investigators, to examine Adams’ comportment as police chief and determine if, as Mills and Schaller maintain, he was involved in and actively participating in Pomierski’s depredations while in office, directly uninvolved but knowledgeable and therefore inexcusably negligent in failing to take proper enforcement action that was incumbent upon the police chief, or absolutely uninvolved  and innocent of any collusion or errors of commission or omission. That investigation, which entailed the questioning of multiple parties including police officers and police department employees, city employees and elected and appointed municipal officials and others, has dragged on for several months but was nearing completion in July. A last crucial interview, one with Bloom, had yet to be carried out. When investigators contacted him, the Sentinel is informed, he declined to participate until he had a lawyer present.

Bloom’s refusal to submit to the questioning unaccompanied sent shock waves through the echelon of Upland city officials who learned of it. While not an admission of guilt in itself, what Bloom’s refusal to respond without legal representation signaled was that there was some substance to long circulating suggestions that Pomierski’s shakedowns of businesspeople in town was an institutionalized phenomenon with a much wider implication than a single corrupt politician and a few cronies.

Bloom’s refusal had an untoward complication for Adams, as well. The city council had hoped to have gotten the report on Adams by late last month at the latest so that it would be prepared to act on Adams’ status at this week’s council meeting, on August 8. The delay in the report’s completion obviated that possibility and it now appears that the council will not get the report until a much later date, nor have the opportunity to act with regard to Adams until, at the earliest, the council meeting of September 12. Thus, Adams faces the prospect of being left to hang slowly twisting in the wind while an even finer toothed comb is raked across his hide with the possibility of more damaging or embarrassing details being lain out for display.

Phone messages left for Bloom were not returned.