Newberry Springs/Harvard Real Property Owners Association Expells Director !
Sucking the community's concerns and voice out of the N.S.H.R.P.O.A.
Why the intense fear?
What is being hidden?
A retaliatory manuver on the Newberry Springs-Havard Real Property Owners Association's board against Director Ted Stimpfel, orchestrated by president Spike Lynch and executive director Sandra Brittian, appears aimed at quashing Stimpfel's questioning of what some community residents believe may possibly be illegal permitting and placement of billboards within the Newberry Springs area.
Strong advocates for billboards, president Spike Lynch has been the principle promoter of billboards being placed in the Newberry Springs area by his family's General Outdoor Advertising's business; and Sandra Brittian, who at one time was to have a billboard placed upon her residential property.
Director Stimpfel joined the property owners board nearly two years ago upon the prodding of president and chairperson Spike Lynch who found that the two shared many common views. Stimpfel's presence upon the board has worked cohesively until recently when he became concerned over news releases concerning the Grand Jury and past county supervisor and assessor William "Bill" Postmus confessing last March to felonies of asking for/receiving a bribe (PC 86), conspiracy to accept a bribe (PC 182(a)(1)), bribery (PC 165), and many other acts of corruption and moral turpitude while in public office.
Postmus is reportedly now cooperating for a lighter prison term by agreeing to truthfully answer all questions presented to him by the San Bernardino's District Attorney's office.
The District Attorney is reportedly reviewing all of the matters that went on with Postmus as a county supervisor and as an assessor. The current First District supervisor, Brad Mitzelfelt, was Postmus' chief of staff while Postmus was a county supervisor. Postmus served as a supervisor in years 2000 through 2006.
Tell us what you did, Bill !
Lynch's family billboard company, General Outdoor Advertising ("General Outdoor"), was pushing for and acquired county acceptance of their proposed billboards for Newberry Springs during this Postmus/Mitzelfelt period. Postmus represented the First District in which the community of Newberry Springs is a part of.
Despite previously making multiple county applications for billboard permits, the earlier General Outdoor applications were apparently withdrawn when the county indicated that the applications were about to be rejected. However, General Outdoor kept resubmitting and prodding the county.
One original hurdle against new billboards along the Interstate-15 was the highway's scenic designation. A major obstacle for billboards on the Interstate-40 is that Federal Law prohibits billboards from being placed along most all of Newberry Springs.
Billboards in Newberry Springs are worth millions of dollars to any billboard company. Other billboard companies have responsibly not attempted to place billboards in Newberry Springs because of the existence of the anti-billboard Federal Law.
The law, contained in the Highway Beautification Act of 1965 (previously PL 85-381), has been adopted by California as the Outdoor Advertising Act (B&P Code §§ 5200-5486). In short, California received many millions in extra federal construction dollars for highway "Bonus Segments" in which to build Interstate-40 through Newberry Springs. Under the agreement with the federal government the State of California agreed to keep the "Bonus Segments" billboard free in exchange for the federal dollars.
With the exception of a few instances, such as county road crossings, Interstate-40 comprises entirely of Bonus Segments in Newberry Springs.
Director Stimpfel states that the billboard permits that General Outdoor Advertising obtained from the county appear to violate both federal and state law. The county, which is required by state law to uphold state law in its permit process, mysteriously dropped the Interstate-15 scenic designation. This is in difference to other counties which have fought hard to acquire such a favorable and esteemed designation.
Should constructed billboards in Newberry Springs be later ruled to have been improperly placed upon Bonus Segments, the state of California could be subject to a cut of up to 10 percent of its federal highway construction funds. This is many tens of millions of dollars. The state could then justifiably penalize the county of San Bernardino.
After repeatedly denying the permits for years due to federal and state law, Director Stimpfel has questioned why the county suddenly did a reversal and issue billboard permits to Spike Lynch's family's billboard company? To Stimpfel, this raises some basic questions: "Was there county corruption involved? With the billboard sites being in the First District, was Postmus illegal activity involved in billboards too?"
Director Stimpfel feels that the environmental impacts of the billboards should also have triggered the California Environmental Quality Act and an Environment Impact Report pertaining to scenic views, dark skies, etc.; and he asks: "Why were such required assessments ignored by the county? Was there any interference or pressure by a county Supervisor levied against the duties of any county department head? Were there political payoffs?" Postmus could be shedding some light on the matter if the district attorney's office is inquiring.
Whether the D.A.'s Public Integrity Unit will or have questioned Postmus on billboards isn't known; but the Grand Jury's investigation into county corruption is expanding.
There is no evidence reported nor belief to date that General Outdoor Advertising has done anything wrong; but public questions remain on how the county processed the billboard applications and how the permits were issued.
The Newberry Springs Property Owners Association ("POA") is currently supporting billboards that might later be upheld as a violation of federal law; which involves billboards that were masterminded and promoted by the the board's president and chair, Spike Lynch, who clearly has a selfish, self-serving conflict of interest.
Recently, Director Ted Stimpfel's attempts to introduce dialogue questioning the appropriateness of the association's billboard support has apparently triggered Spike Lynch acquiring Sandra Brittian to join the association's board of directors to champion Lynch's fight against any discussion or resistance to billboards.
Sandra Brittian in war paint?
Earlier, Lynch sought community support in order to pressure the county to issue the billboard permits. Sandra Brittian, as a well known community leader, quickly provided her support apparently in exchange for a billboard being designated for her property.
With all of the other parcels along Interstate-40 which could have been selected, Stimpfel asks, "Why did Lynch earlier select Brittian's? Brittian, against neighboring property interests, appears to have milked her community position for expected self-gain."
Brittian may have been swept away with Lynch's pay-off proposal of using her Interstate-40 property. Brittian would have received a regular and sizable income check continuously for the use of her land. Lynch may have sweetened the monetary windfall idea that if a cellular company, or many cellular companies, would use Brittian's billboard as a cellular site (as the design of the billboards permit cellular equipment), she could then rake-in far more $$$ per month.
During the April 2011 POA general meeting, Director Stimpfel mentioned that Brittian's property was on an earlier application (about year 2000). Brittian quickly interrupted that she got off of the following application. What she didn't say was that the application in which her property was listed on had a problem in that her property isn't commercial or industrial zoned and that was apparently a small reason argued for the application's failure. It is believed that Brittian would now like to see her zoning changed for future billboard placements; and that she may be working on that.
This raises other questions that Director Stimpfel states that he has had but has politely ignored over past years. However, since his integrity is now under attack by Brittian's accusations in an attempt to remove him from the association's board... he questions: "How ethical is it for Brittian to operate a commercial real estate office on her residential zoned land? How does one also provide a public Information Center and a Chamber of Commerce office with the retail sales of pistachios, t-shirts, maps, et cetera; and a "museum"; and without providing separate public restrooms? Water also needs to be provided and county health department documents may not show that Brittian's water well has a required safety cap which is mandated for all public water well sources. There are numerous other questions whether Brittian may be eligible for substantial monetary fines for violations under the American Disabilities Act." Stimpfel alleges that there are more and believes that Brittian should be the last person to attack him on an issue of integrity.
Front of Sandra Brittian's residential property viewed from National Trails Highway.
Director Stimpfel believes that the Lynch/Brittian cadre may be laying the groundwork for additional billboards to be added to Newberry Springs.
The Newberry Springs Community Service District is working on a Community Plan Draft ("Draft") in which the planning committee is made-up in part by local Chamber of Commerce members in which Sandra Brittian is president. The committee has proposed (NS/LU 1.6) prohibiting billboards in Newberry Springs except along Lynch's Interstate-40 billboard corridor (including Brittian's property). This would add exclusivity to Lynch's billboards which would greatly increase their revenue value; and possibly later, increase the value of Brittian's parcel.
Also, the Draft's NS/LU 3.4 proposes a "Regional Industrial (IR) land use district up to 1/2-mile wide on each side of the BNSF rail tracks from I-40/National Trails east to Fort Cady." BNSF is not likely to open up new sidings along their prized national rail line through Newberry Springs; but if they did, what would the rational be for extending an industrial district 1/2-mile south?
Stimpfel asks, "Why doesn't the plan simply suggest having the industrial zone extend south from the rail line to Interstate-40? Rails are certainly not going to cross over the Interstate highway."
Stimpfel believes that the true reasoning behind the 1/2-mile push south of the rails is to overcome some obstacles to establish more Interstate billboards and to again accommodate Brittian's property as a billboard site. This would greatly assist Brittian's financial picture if her property's zoning was changed. Director Stimpfel further states that this appears to him to be people using their civic positions to promote their personal greed.
Last year Director Stimpfel initiated and pushed a resolution supporting Barstow's fight against the DesertXpress rail line which proposes to take 1/3 of the traffic off of Interstate-15 to Las Vegas, and probably some Interstate-40 gamblers who otherwise drive to Laughlin. Stimpfel states that Lynch was great to totally support him on the resolution; however, Stimpfel states that he always felt that Lynch's heart was in the wrong place and that Lynch's concern was more over a decrease in vehicular traffic which would reduce the value and revenues of General Outdoor's billboards.
Director Stimpfel states that his status on the Property Owners Association board was welcomed until he carried out his obligation and duty to raise questions which some property owners hold. "I feel that the POA should represent the concerns and interests of all property owners;" said Stimpfel, "this includes not only the interests of resident property owners, but also non-resident, absentee property owners. Currently, the POA régime is only hearing and supporting special interests and self-serving agendas. Everything else gets eviscerated."
Stimpfel is now not welcomed by a majority of the POA board. He states that as he is independent and is "not a crony in Lynch's good-ode-boys camp."
When Director Stimpfel began raising the concerns about the association's support of billboards, Sandra Brittian who had previously abandoned the POA to concentrate on the local Chamber of Commerce, suddenly reappeared. Immediately thereafter, she began attacking Stimpfel's position on the board. "I personally believe that she returned after receiving a cry for help from Spike Lynch;" states Stimpfel, "the timing and suddenness of Brittian's appearance and immediate attack seems far too coincidental and contrived."
General Outdoor Advertising's new double-faced billboards on Interstate-15.
The county granted billboard permits are not a done deal. Newberry Springs realty specialist Fred Stearn filed a civil lawsuit in November 2006 against the County of San Bernardino and General Outdoor Advertising over the billboard permits, and Stearn's legal action has shown longevity. On Monday, June 6, 2011, a superior court judge found that the case had merit enough to allow Stearn to file a second amended complaint. The defendants have been unsuccessful in getting the legal action dismissed and the court appears to be weighing a possible tie-in with the highly publicized county corruption. Stearn's attorney is recognized as a nationally renown specialist in billboard litigation.
If Stearn's amended complaint survives the next current challenge, a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP), which is something like a motion to strike, the next issue will likely center on whether Stearn will be allowed the right to discovery (the right to subpoena documents and acquire testimony from witnesses through sworn depositions). To date, the county and General Outdoor Advertising have strongly fought such discovery not wanting to reveal how the permitting process was handled.
It is interesting to note that the California legistlature enacted SLAPP legislation (Code of Civil Procedure §425.16) in 1992 to protect small parties and individuals like Stearn against corporate litigative abuse which attempts to chill and repress the constitutional right of freedom of speech and petition for the redress of grievances. The General Outdoor Advertising application of a SLAPP against Stearn appears to a legal layman as abusive in not being the intent of the legislation. It is an interesting application of the law which is due to be addressed by the court on September 19, 2011.
Stimpfel states that he has no insight as to what the court may do; and that it may decide in General Outdoor's favor. But in reading the pertinent federal and state law, Stimpfel believes that Stearn is correct and that he may have success. -
Stearn vs. County of San Bernardino, General Outdoor Advertising -
(1) Click: Civil; (2) next screen click: Case Number Search; (3) next screen, "Case Type", input: SCV and "Court Case Number": SS142797)
Brittian's attack upon Stimpfel has challenged his right to hold office is solely based upon Brittian's inability to find Stimpfel's name recorded upon the county's property rolls. Stimpfel has stated that he legally hold's direct property interests in multiple parcels in Newberry Springs. He has offered the board an affidavit regarding his claim, but both Brittian and Lynch have refused to accept it.
When Stimpfel joined the board, under the organization's Bylaws, the board of directors did exercise their discretionary ability in screening him. Stimpfel had previously avoided board membership in his desire to avoid disclosure of his property interests for privacy. However, Spike Lynch, apparently believing that he had found himself another supportive crony, pushed the board for their discretion in accepting Stimpfel. Based upon Spike's urging, the board exercised their latitude in accepting Stimpfel upon the board.
There was nothing improperly done as Brittian without evidence now vindictively argues. Stimpfel met all of the board's requested screening and was unanimously voted in. Now that he has struck a nerve with the dictatorship, the board is now renigning on their duties and obligations and are demonstrating their malicious leadership with treachery and betrayal.
In the state of California, individuals hold interests in real estate under many different ways, not necessarily using their name on title; such purposes can be for tax considerations, liability, sub rosa, and under many different legal forms such as trusts instruments, partnerships, etc.
When challenged by a wild accusation, such as Brittian's, Stimpfel states that it is his time-honored position not to respond, for it is the responsibility of the accuser in our republic to prove an allegation. "Sandra Brittian has wrongfully defamed me by claiming that I have lied and that am sitting upon the POA board under false pretense;" states Stimpfel, "it has been the responsibility of the Brittian to substantiate her malicious and defamatory accusations. Brittian has failed to do such. I feel that her professionalism is rapidly deminishing."
Without any proof other than Brittian's self-serving allegation, the POA's board in a behind-closed-door board session on June 1, 2011, absent of the general membership's knowledge, voted for Stimpfel's expulsion from the board. Voting for expulsion was Spike Lynch, Sandra Brittian, Jacklyn Mcbrien, and Ellen Johnson. Directors Margaret Graessle and Ted Stimpfel opposed the motion. Director Larry Menard abstained.
Director Stimpfel is ignoring the expulsion. He points out that the POA board of directors do not hold a legal justification to remove him. If such was the remedy for discontent, all boards would be in a constant state of upheaval as majorities on issues would be expelling minorities. The law doesn't permit such. In the matter of Director Stimpfel, the removal of a director would require constructive notice being mailed to all general members; then the matter brought before the general membership. Stimpfel claims that the régime has totally dismissed proper procedures and protocol.
The legal principle involved here is a mini-version of President Obama being allegedly not qualified after taking office due to not presenting his birth certificate. At this point, just like Obama, Stimpfel had been previously qualified by the board for a director seat and had been unanimously accepted and sworn in. Brittian had her opportunity to challenge Stimpfel's candidacy during the board's screening process but didn't. The courts have ruled that sitting officers have constitutional due process protections from unproven allegations.
Ironically, Stimpfel relates that in wanting to alert the board and general members to what might later be ruled as a problem in the issuing of county billboard permits, he himself has faced alleged corruption in the abusive response and the abuse of power by president Spike Lynch and executive director Sandra Brittian.
Director Stimpfel highlights that the POA board members have no permissible authority nor legal basis for their reprisal action. They are not following any written Guidelines & Procedures. Stimpfel believes that: "They are making-up their own self-serving rules that serve themselves whenever they want. This is corruption that is no better then Postmus believing that he can makeup his own rules and is not answerable."
Stimpfel figures that the billboard issue should be given wide media exposure so that the general public can understand that Spike Lynch (as a representative agent of General Outdoor Advertising) and Sandra Brittian, and their supporting board members, are stifling a free and an open public forum within the local property owners association over questionable billboard permits.
As the federal government has the right to cut 10% of highway construction funds from the state if the law is determined to have been breached, Stimpfel does not believe that the property owners association should be involved in supporting the billboards; and that the county citizens have a right to know about their potential liability exposure. This can also impact the funding of San Bernardino County services.
Stimpfel also believes that the District Attorney, and the judge in the civil matter of the billboards, should be given knowledge of the coercion that Spike Lynch, as an agent of General Outdoor Advertising, has been exerting upon a community representative to remain silent. The FBI and the state Attorney General have also been involved in the Postmus matter.
As an additional item, there appears to have been some rezoning done to accommodate the county permitting of billboards. Such selective rezoning done solely to permit billboards is improper under established case law. So numerous actions appear to thread an orchestrated scheme of questionable behavior now being litigated.
Director Stimpfel believes that the community further needs to understand the meaning of billboard Bonus Segments and how General Outdoor Advertising has allegedly schemed and corrupted the POA and other local organizations with what could be interpreted by some as bribes and inducements of promised kick-backs and payola revenues.
POA president Spike Lynch has smiled and has argued that General Outdoor Advertising has the permits. He appears to desire that the community follow and believe in him as successful; and believe that the permits are aboveboard. Perhaps the court will rule that the permits are O.K.; this would spare the community embarrassment. The court's decision however could drastically swing the other way and the public should be aware of that possibility. Currently, the POA appears to be aiding and abetting in what a court might rule against. It is the responsibility of the organization's board to be knowledgeable of what is happening and deal with such matters at an "arm's length."
The overall principle question before the civil court now is whether the law may have been circumvented to have the permits issued. The court could simply allow the permits to stand which would be the easiest way for the court to dispose of the matter; but what is unknown is whether this matter might end up as also being part of the Postmus-era criminal investigation. More county individuals may be drawn into the swirling prison vortex.
Director Stimpfel had earlier expected to simply go before the association's board and request that the association withdraw its support. He figured that the majority would quickly vote his motion down but that his opposition would be recorded. However, the attempt by Brittian, Lynch, and other board members to quickly shut-him-up and remove him has intensified his opposition to the issue.
A small number of Newberry Springs property owners do support billboards. Most are residents who have been persuaded due to General Outdoor's promises of kickback revenues; yet after years of the existence of this county accepted plan, there are no known signed agreements between General Outdoor and any of the individual community organizations; and there appears to be no known hard legal guarantee of any monies to Newberry Springs organizations if General Outdoor is sold or transferred.
The revenue sharing plan is allegedly only an agreement with the county to share revenues with Newberry Springs' organizations and appears to be only statements which don't have any true enforcement or penalties for failure to perform. The kickbacks are essentially gifts and gifts are reportedly said to be unenforceable under California law. The county certainly isn't expected to spend money and resources to enforce statements for what county counsel might consider improper kickbacks. So the endless stream of long-term revenues to Newberry Springs from billboards might not materialize. Newberrians may have been fooled.
If General Outdoor Advertising is serious about sharing with the community, why wasn't this guaranteed to the community by having the community organizations co-named as an applicant to the permits and given a partner ownership in the billboards? This would have demonstrated General Outdoor's sincerity.
Communities littered with eye-sore billboards tend to dissuade new businesses from settling into a community. Businessmen want to be proud of their business locations and new jobs are slow to materialize in depressed appearing areas. Billboards contribute to blighted locations (like Yermo). To improve their appearance, many cities now prohibit new billboards in order improve appearance, to attract new jobs, and meaningful revenue.
Postmus' booking photo.
The District Attorney's office hasn't indicated whether billboards are part of its Postmus investigation; but as the matter involves millions of dollars, it could be an element before the current or a future Grand Jury. If a Grand Jury interprets General Outdoor payouts to community organizations as unearned pay-offs (the organizations have no ownership interest in the billboards), the POA's acceptance of any amount from billboard revenue could possibly be interpreted as a payola exchange.
When a board director brings-up an important and questionable matter before the POA board, it is the responsibility of each board member to allow an investigative dialogue of the matter; not to attempt to immediately remove the messenger on improper procedural grounds which represents gross negligence and malpractice of their board responsibilities.
Stimpfel states that he believes that those living in the desert should preserve the desert's beauty and God created vistas; including the preservation of dark night skies. "Nobody's desert property in Newberry Springs should be subjected to neighboring lighted billboards which will be brightly lighted and seen for miles across the desert floor. Such is out-of-character to neighborly manners."