The Blotter on May 6, 2015, published a
from Newberry Springs' CEQA-NOW to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO)
for San Bernardino County.
The letter, in essence, asked for clarification on several points of duty
and law. Apparently, digging for an understanding as to why the Newberry CSD has been
so ineffective in serving the local community for decades.
A reply from LAFCO to that letter has been received and the
Blotter thanks both CEQA-NOW and LAFCO for keeping the Blotter, and thereby
the community, informed.
LAFCO's responses to the first three CEQA-NOW questions are interesting.
Currently, the Blotter is doing background research into the manner in which the
Newberry CSD handled the Kiewit Pacific funds that the community was given; principally
for road improvement and youth-oriented recreation and recreational facilities. The
funds were provided by Kiewit Pacific as mitigation offset for the opening and the operation of
a local mine. CEQA-NOW's questions have relevancy to the Blotter's study.
Roughly ten years ago, the community in a settlement with Kiewit Pacific
was given $350,000 in cash; and an entity was necessary to step-in, in a fiduciary trustee
relationship, to see that the funding was properly distributed to the highest and best
use of the community under the terms of the agreement. The CSD board, seeing a large
sum of money, stepped-up to handle the funds.
What resulted has been a complete breach of fiduciary duty, the
highest legal duty that a person or entity can hold. Rather than seeking matching grants to
multiply the fund's application towards its intended targets, the Newberry CSD commingled the
funds into its general account and has used the money as a slush reserve for its general operational
expenses. Now, according to LAFCO's first and second responses in its reply, the Newberry
CSD seems to lack any authority to act in the capacity of a third-party fiduciary trustee.
It has previously come to the Blotter's attention,
in networking with others within the community, that part or all of Newberry Springs
might be categorized as 'Economically Disadvantaged.' Perhaps, even 'Severely
Economically Disadvantaged.' If so, this opens the door to special funding that
the community could be acquiring; but obviously isn't. The question then
arises, why isn't Newberry Springs tapping available funds as other communities are?
An example of one of the many opportunities is
LAFCO's response to question No. 3 in its reply shows recognition
that Newberry Springs is a "Disadvantaged Unincorporated Community" (DUC). The reply
states that this is based upon Newberry Springs being a community where the annual median
household income is less than 80% of the statewide annual median household income.
LAFCO's response opens the door to many additional questions;
such as where does the 80% figure comes from. In the federal government, different agencies
and departments have different criteria percentages. So some additional questions would be,
what California departments are using the 80% figure for "Disadvantaged?" What can the
"Disadvantaged" classification do for Newberry Springs? How far below the 80% level does
Newberry Springs fall? Does Newberry Springs have pocket areas that fall into lower
categories, such as Severely Economically Disadvantaged, that might allow Newberry Springs to
be prioritized for economic assistance?
The sad news is that blogs like this one are being written. The
CSD board should be actively involved in exploring outside grants and opportunities that
would economically benefit Newberry Springs. The CSD board should have long ago been on
top of these opportunities. Instead, the Newberry CSD board members present the attitude of
do-as-little-as-possible and pick-up the monthly general meeting stipend.
In over a half century, the CSD boards have NEVER asked LAFCO for
additional authorized powers whereby the CSD could better act to economically benefit Newberry
Springs and thereby improve the daily lives of its citizens.
As pathetic as this is, it demonstrates what happens when an uninformed
electorate repeatedly elects good friends and neighbors to the CSD board who lack vision and