Crisis, Corruption and Cronyism

Crisis, Corruption and Cronyism

Ethical Questions Arise Over the Qualification of WVWD Appointee, Jeremiah Brosowske

Gail Fry / S.E. Williams | Contributors

Bad news regarding the West Valley Water District Board of Directors continues to raise concerns among ratepayers. Just as they learned an internal investigation revealed ethical and financial violations by director and former Board President Clifford O. Young (C. Young) were validated and referred to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office for follow-up—news broke C. Young, Assistant Board Secretary Patricia Romero and former Chief Financial Officer Naisha Davis had joined together in a whistleblower complaint against others associated with the agency.

The complaint named as defendants WVWD’s General Counsel Robert Tafoya, who serves as the city attorney in Baldwin Park, and his law firm, Tafoya and Garcia; WVWD Special Counsel Clifton Albright and his law firm, Albright, Yee and Schmit; WVWD Special Counsel Martin Kaufman, and his law firm Kaufman Law Firm; and WVWD consultant Robert Katherman.

The suit further identified WVWD Board President and former Baldwin Park police chief President Michael Taylor; WVWD’s assistant general manager and current Baldwin Park City Councilman Ricardo Pacheco; WVWD Board Vice President and Fontana officer Kyle Crowther; and WVWD General Manager Clarence Mansell as co-conspirators.

These issues came on the heels of unusually high turnover among the agency’s management staff during the last four years which included allegations regarding C. Young’s alleged pattern of improper spending and hiring practices. After staff made these allegations against him, some were placed on paid leave, a personnel investigation was opened, complaints were filed with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, several lawsuits were initiated against the agency and eventually settled on behalf of the complainants.

As conflicts continue to rage at the WVWD and despite concerns expressed by two directors, during the May 16 meeting the board approved—by a three to two vote— board approved—by a three to two vote—an employment agreement with Hesperia City Councilmember Jeremiah Brosowske to fill the position of assistant general manager in exchange for an annual base salary of $189,592 and $62,500 in benefits—this totals more than a quarter million dollars per year—while some continue to question whether he is even qualified for the job.

When Brosowske’s employment agreement came before the board for consideration, Director Greg Young explained based on district’s own internal job description and the policies of the water agency, he was of the opinion Brosowske did not meet the minimum qualifications for the position.

“I just cannot in good conscience as a representative of the ratepayers go along with that kind of a decision,” G. Young voiced concluding, “This is a very important appointment and one that I think requires a manager who has the qualifications. So, I will be voting no on this item and I want a separate consideration.”

WVWD President Dr. Michael Taylor assured ratepayers its hiring process was above board. He highlighted the selection process explaining the district had publicized the opening for assistant general manager; had 25 candidates apply; the candidates were screened by professional services; and the board interviewed the eight finalists before choosing the top candidate based on a rating list.

“So, I will make a motion to approve item number 16, and accept a contract with Jeremiah so that is my motion, do I have a second,” Taylor inquired? He received a second from WVWD Director Don Olinger. Olinger then requested, “Discussion please.”

Olinger explained he wanted to state publicly that even though he would be voting in favor of Brosowske’s employment contract, Brosowske was an at-will employee and assured he would be taking a very close look at concerns raised by director G. Young.

During public comment, Rialto Resident Don Griggs, speaking on behalf of Mr. Hardy Brown, Publisher Emeritus, The IE Voice/Black Voice News, shared Brown’s observations that under the leadership of WVWD (former) President C. Young and (former) Vice President G. Young, ratepayers witnessed the loss of a five-million-dollar litigation insurance policy; the firing of five top management staff employees resulting in lawsuits against the district; the hiring of many law firms to handle these cases costing the district over one-million-dollars; and associated costs were continuing to rise.

“What are you doing to prevent these things from happening again,” Griggs asked on behalf of Brown? He highlighted Brown’s perception of political appointments by WVWD directors and stressed how the appointments appeared based on who you know instead of who is the best qualified.

“You should make sure all top management people are properly vetted to ensure they are not political appointments,” Griggs admonished, citing several examples of what Brown believed were political appointments such as former general manager Robert Pacheco, public affairs manager Naseem Farooqi, newly appointed assistant general manager Logan Olds, and now—Brosowske, just to name a few.

Speaking for West Valley Water District Ratepayers Association, Griggs asked WVWD board members to be transparent in their hiring process and make sure those selected meet minimum job qualifications. Griggs reminded WVWD board members of their duty to fairness and civic responsibility to the public— advising them, there are very few secrets in the community.

Griggs recalled a matter in mid-October 2018, where the Public Integrity Unit (PIU) of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office called on C. Young to return money to the ratepayers for reimbursed he had requested and received in the amount of $1378.58 for travel expenses for a business trip to Washington, DC in 2016 that was ultimately cancelled; and a reimbursement in the amount of $538.41 for fees on his personal Linkedin account for 2016. Young claimed the reimbursement were an “inadvertent mistake.” Many considered this a flimsy excuse for what was believed to be a criminal violation.

There are also concerns over the outcome of an internal investigation into other allegations against C. Young and the WVWD regarding additional misuse of ratepayer funds. In mid-September 2018 the WVWD engaged the law firm Milon Pluas LLP (Pluas) to investigate reimbursements to C. Young for a December 7, 2017 political event packaged as a Christmas party in response to a complaint filed by Griggs on behalf of the WVWD Ratepayers Association. The investigation concluded the allegations against C. Young and the West Valley Water District were substantiated.

Regarding personnel related issues Griggs stated, “I see the legal costs still going up from one bad employee decision after another that must stop and only you can do that,” Griggs further admonished the board opining Black employees were being “retired” or “fired” for “unjust reasons.” He further shared the number one question ratepayers ask, is about WVWD’s hiring practices which are believed to have excluded members of the minority community.

“How many minority employees, how many Black employees do they employ for management or staff, or even out in the field,” he challenged? I don’t see any, why not,” he pressed further? He concluded, “I don’t have an answer for that.”

Who is Jeremiah Brosowske?

Jeremiah Brosowske was appointed to the Hesperia City Council over eight other applicants on July 11, 2018 after Hesperia Mayor Russ Blewett passed away in May of that year. One of the eight applicants thought to be highly qualified was Bridget Bennington a longtime resident and staffer for the City of Hesperia. Bennington is a retiree with more than 30 years’ experience in local government.

Brosowske was appointed over the objections of several Hesperia residents including Al Vogler who described Brosowske’s appointment process as tainted. Some Hesperia residents also view WVWD’s approval of an employment agreement with Brosowske as a “payoff” from certain real estate developers and/or marijuana interests in the City of Hesperiea.

Brosowske was appointed over the objections of several Hesperia residents including Al Vogler who described Brosowske’s appointment process as tainted. Some Hesperia residents also view WVWD’s approval of an employment agreement with Brosowske as a “payoff” from certain real estate developers and/or marijuana interests.

Suspicions about Brosowske surfaced when he was being considered to fill the Hesperia City Council seat. Hesperia residents obtained voter records indicating Brosowske, a resident of Apple Valley, had re-registered to vote using a Hesperia address two days after Blewett’s death. What raised suspicion was the Hesperia address used by Brosowske was previously used by Bill Jensen, a former Hesperia city councilmember, who endorsed Brosowske in his appointment to replace Blewett.

Next, after Hesperia city councilmembers revealed their interview questions to the first candidates interviewed for the vacancy, Vogler observed WVWD Public Affairs Manager Naseem Farooqi and developer Dino DeFazio leaving the meeting. Then another Hesperia resident observed Farooqi and DeFazio speaking in hushed tones with Brosowske in the lobby. This was prior to Brosowski being called in by the council to respond to the interview questions.

The impromptu meeting between Farooqi, DeFazio and Brosowske in the lobby after Farooqi and Defazio had heard the questions and before Brosowske was interviewed, raised allegations that DeFazio and Farooqi had shared the interview questions with Brosowske. As a result, observers were concerned the alleged action tainted the appointment process.

Despite these concerns, Brosowske was appointed to the Hesperia city council by a vote of three to one in July 2018 and subsequently, was narrowly elected over Bennington (by 135 votes) to hold the seat in the city’s first by-district election on November 6, 2018.

Questionable Connections

There are questions regarding the relationship between Farooqi and Brosowke. What is known, is that Farooqi provided funding for Brosowske’s November 2018 campaign. In addition, at the time Brosowke was being considered for appointment to the council, Farooqui was already approved to put a marijuana delivery business in Hesperia. Also, according to Vogler, Farooqi was formerly employed by Frontier Homes, LLC., a California limited liability company, with developer James L. Previti as its only manager.

Concerning DeFazio, records from the California Secretary of State confirmed he is a real estate agent and developer in business with former county supervisor, former assessor and convicted felon, Bill Postmus, through Tri-Land, Inc., a California corporation.

In February 2010, DeFazio was charged with lying to the grand jury during its investigation into the Colonies Scandal. However, in January 2018 Judge Harold T. Wilson, Jr. dismissed all charges against him, “in the interest of justice.”

The Colonies Scandal originated from the development of land along the 210 freeway; land that had historically been used for flood control. In March 2002, Colonies Partners filed a lawsuit against the County of San Bernardino claiming the county had hiked the amount of flood water discharged onto their land causing damage. In November 2006, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved a $102 million settlement with Colonies Partners.

In 2010, the San Bernardino County District Attorney joined with the State Attorney General’s Office in prosecuting Postmus; former county supervisor Paul Biane; former chief of staff for county supervisor Ovitt, Mark Kirk; former San Bernardino County Assistant Assessor Adam Aleman; former assistant assessor Jim Erwin, and developer, Jeffrey Burum. The charges alleged bribery, extortion and perjury involving the civil court settlement.

While others faced prosecution, in 2009-10, Postmus and Aleman reached plea agreements with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and agreed to testify against the other defendants. After two separate jury trials in 2017, the jury found Biane, Kirk, Erwin and Burum not guilty.

After being found not guilty, in 2018 Burum, his business, Colonies Partners, and his co-defendants Kirk and Erwin filed lawsuits in federal court asking for a total $250 million from San Bernardino County taxpayers through lawsuits filed against the County of San Bernardino (county) over their unsuccessful prosecution.

Another area of concern involves Brosowske’s Form 700, Statements of Economic Interests, dated August 22, 2018. It revealed he received over $10,000 in income from Mountain States Consulting, LLC., discovered to be a Wyoming limited liability company; and over $10,000 from Tony Strickland Consulting, Inc., a lobbyist for the City of Hesperia.

It was later discovered that Mountain States Consulting, LLC, is managed by Bill Postmus, who is currently serving time in state prison in relation to the Colonies case. Vogler questions where Mountain States Consulting, LLC. got its money? Postmus’ signature showed on the company’s annual reports in 2014, 2015 and 2016 according to records maintained by the Wyoming Secretary of State where the company is registered. After that period, the annual reports were signed by Capital Administrations, LLC in 2017, and in 2018 and 2019 the annual reports were signed by Corporate Agents, LLC. These companies provide the ability to conceal the true owners of the entity from the public and are commonly referred to as shell corporations.

Tony Strickland Consulting, Inc., a lobbying company, representing the City of Hesperia to members of the United States Legislature, had previously been the subject of an investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) for political money laundering and the filing of false statements. This led to a $40,000 fine levied against the company by the FPPC on May 19, 2016.

Strickland reached a stipulated agreement with the FPPC, that he and his “Strickland for Controller” Campaign aided and abetted three persons to make—four, earmarked, over-the-limit contributions totaling $65,000—to the Ventura County Republican Party and the Stanislaus County Republican Party.

Strickland previously served in the California State Legislature for ten years both as a state assemblyman from 1998 through 2004 and as a state senator from 2008 through 2012.

A review of campaign records obtained by The IE Voice/Black Voice News, found Brosowske had received substantial financial support for his November 2018 campaign effort to hold his appointed seat in the Hesperia city council from former Hesperia city councilman Paul Russ; The Building Industry Association; Hesperia Land Ventures, LLC. in Tennessee for which no record could be found at the Secretary of State in California or Tennessee; Inland Development Strategies, LLC., a California limited liability company owned by DeFazio with the same address as Tri-land, Inc., a California corporation owned by DeFazio and Postmus.

Questionable Qualifications

Of further concern are comments heard by Vogler at a public meeting where Brosowske purportedly said he went to Golden Oak State College; and on another occasion, Vogler heard Brosowske refer to his background in theater arts.

Vogler was surprised to learn Brosowske had been appointed as WVWD Assistant General Manager knowing Brosowske has no education in water systems, having received his higher education from Charter Oaks State College—a public online college located in Connecticut according to its website. The online college offers a limited number of bachelor’s degrees—none related to water systems. More information can be found at https://www.charteroak.edu/

Additionally, Brosowske spoke of his background in theater arts, recalled Vogler who located an acting/modeling profile of him displayed on the Explore Talent Website where Brosowske was seeking employment. More information is available at: https://www.exploretalent.com/jeremiahbrosowske.

Brosowske also leveraged his previous experience as a policy advisor for San Bernardino County Supervisor Curt Hagman. Online media reports indicate he held the position during 2016, however, The IE Voice/Black Voice News reached out to Hagman’s office to determine how long Brosowske worked on the supervisor’s staff and to understand more about his role and responsibilities while in the position. As of publication they had not responded.

Final Food for Thought

Vogler alleges Farooqi supported Brosowske in order to receive favorable votes for marijuana-related businesses in the City of Hesperia. He further believes Previti supported Brosowske’s appointment in exchange for votes favorable to higher-density housing and apartments, or subsidies the City of Hesperia could offer to lower his development costs.

“Brosowske and [fellow Hesperia city] councilmember Rebekah Swanson will vote together,” he supposed, “they were both paid for and bought by the Building Industry Association and Jimmy Previti—that’s where the funding [campaign contributions] came from.”

Vogler also alleged Brosowske has been given a payoff by appointing him assistant general manager at the WVWD—a position he is not qualified for and for which he is being grossly overpaid—and in exchange Vogler declared, “he will vote for them [BIA on issues before the Hesperia City Council] the way they want him to vote, and he will try to influence voting down at West Valley Water.”

The Voice/Black Voice News sought comments on these issues from the West Valley Water District and City of Hesperia City Councilman Jeremiah Brosowske, there was no response by press time.

About The Author

S.E. Williams

Stephanie E. Williams is an award winning investigative reporter, editor and activist who has contributed to several Inland Empire publications. Williams spent more than thirty years as a middle-manager in the telecommunications industry before retiring to pursue her passion as a reporter and non-fiction writer. Beyond writing, Williams’ personal interests include stone-carving, drumming and sculpting.

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