Thursday, December 20, 2007

LA Times columnist visits Barstow: meets Miss California-USA and the town's "Tony Soprano"

Miss Barstow has been in the news recently as she was crowned Miss California-USA after state pageant officials realized another contestant had been wrongly crowned due to tabulation errors. The last time a Miss Barstow made big news that local beauty queen was arrested for defacing a California Highway Patrol vehicle and became the butt of jokes in Jay Leno's Tonight Show monologues.

So seeing the latest Miss Barstow news as an opportunity to turn around the bad PR the dusty desert town got a few years back, Barstow's city leaders decided to invite Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez to town for a PR tour. Lopez followed up his visit with a column: Truth and beauties at the Crossroads of Opportunity.

Interesting that as a part of the visit, Lopez was invited to attend the morning coffee klatsch with local influence brokers held at Leonard Purdy's Barstow Tire and Brake. It's been reported to TVT that Leonardy Purdy is the "Tony Soprano" of Barstow and that Barstow Tire and Brake is Purdy's (or Barstow's) version of the "Bada Bing!" club -- the place where the "Boss" and his boys gather to exchange gossip, hatch their plans and get their marching orders.

Lopez writes in his LA Times column:
There's plenty of backroom politics in Barstow, and more than a few critics of the mayor and council's plan for the casino, the awarding of big contracts and whatnot, so I'd have ample material to work with.

But I'm going to delay a decision for now.

At Monday night's City Council meeting, I did get a feel for Barstow's small-town charm when Mayor Dale honored the state champion cross-country team from Barstow High and declared Dec. 17 Raquel Beezley day.

The next morning, for my big tour, I joined the mayor and the beauty queen at Leonard Purdy's Barstow Tire & Brake, where local movers and shakers start each day with coffee and gossip. Or, as a sign says, "Will trade coffee for fish stories."
It even appears that Barstow's "Boss" attempted to schmooze the LA Times's Lopez and set himself up with few "chits" by offering Lopez the favor of some discounted tires:

Even before Leonard Purdy said he could beat L.A. prices on the tires I've been shopping for, I had to admit that Barstow was winning me over.

You better hurry back to Barstow Mr. Lopez if you really want those tires because if you wait too long, some of your new Barstow buddies might be in custody. Oh, and don't hold you breath on the Walmart Distribution Center, new home construction by the thousands or the scheme for side-by-side Indian casinos ... Barstow's Mayor has been promising those windfalls for the last seven years and none of those milestones are anywhere in Barstow's near future.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Southampton blocks Shinnecock casino development; tribe irked


Shinnecocks irked by Southampton blocking casino

Tribal Trustees of the Shinnecock Indian tribe Monday charged that Southampton Town was committing "cultural genocide" by insisting that the residentially-zoned land should be used only to build houses.

The charge by tribal trustees, during an interview on the reservation, comes a few days before a federal court was to accept the wording of a permanent injunction barring the Shinnecock from developing a casino on nearly 80 acres of land in Hampton Bays.

Southampton won its lawsuit to block the tribe from building a casino.

Trustee Frederick C. Bess said Monday that generations of Shinnecocks have taken part in weddings, dances and other community rituals on the tribe's Westwoods property.

"They can't tell us if we're breaking the law or not," he said. "Do we have to get a permit to build a bonfire?"

Trustee Lance Gumbs said that the traditional uses of the land would not be stopped. "We are going to continue to do them," he said. "If we have to go to jail, we will."

The Tribal Trustees also complained that the proposed injunction drawn up by the town contains language opposing any federal recognition of the tribe. They say such a clause would make it difficult to gain that status, which would allow the tribe to apply for special federal aid programs.

U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Bianco ruled in October that the Shinnecock Tribe did not have the right to build a casino on the Westwoods land, where its members have hunted, celebrated and conducted different ceremonies for generations.

The land, off Newtown Road, is several miles from the Shinnecock Indian Reservation on Shinnecock Bay.

After ruling in favor of the town, Judge Bianco ordered the two sides to come up with the wording for a permanent injunction to bar casino construction by Dec. 12. When they failed to reach an agreement on the language, he extended the deadline to Thursday.

Town Board member Linda Kabot, who will become supervisor, had scheduled a meeting with the Tribal Trustees last week, but canceled it.

Kabot said the Shinnecocks wanted to include language in the court order that spelled out the tribe's pre-existing uses of the land, uses which did not conform to existing zoning. "It was over-reaching," she said.

Kabot said that there are no town regulations that deal with tribal ceremonies or similar cultural events. "We only cover big activities like the Hampton Classic," she said.

Barwest spokesman reports no significant progress in effort to bring casino to Barstow

Tom Shields, spokesman for Detroit-based BarWest Gaming LLC, appeared at tonight's meeting of the Barstow City Council and reported, "There has really not been any significant change in our (BarWest) effort to bring Casino gaming to Barstow." The BarWest casino scheme has been stalled, making no significant progress, since 2005; despite periodic representations otherwise by Shields.

Although California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger a strict policy of confidentiality regarding negotiations that may be ongoing with specific tribes, Shields continues to make public statement indicating negotiations with the Governor are in progress presumaby breaking with the Governor's policy requiring confidentiality, and leading some to speculate that in fact there are no active discussions underway.

Shields, once again, brought along two members of the Los Coyotes tribe but there has been no appearance by leaders of the Big Lagoon Rancheria in Barstow for months -- one news story indicated Big Lagoon was no longer involved with the Barstow casino effort although Shields has attempted to suggest otherwise.
Political disclosure documents indicate both individuals who accompanied Shields to the City Council meeting representing themselves as leaders of the Los Coyotes tribe have previously been paid by BarWest to make appearances in Barstow.

Shields and Shane Chapparosa, one of those who represents himself as a leader of the Los Coyotes tribe, reported that there had been elections but represented there were no significant changes in the make-up of the Tribal Council. They failed to mention whether or not Katherine Siva Saubel remained as chairwoman/spokesperson for the tribe.

A news article published in November reported that Saubel, who terminated the tribe's agreement with BarWest referred to BarWest principal Michael J. Malik, Sr. as "the Devil." Saubel and her nephew Kevin Siva were noticeably absent from the Barstow City Council meeting.

Further, Shields was forced to admit that a draft Environmental Impact Study (EIS) required by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) on the two casinos BarWest has proposed had made no progress at the Department of Interior.

San Bernardino County DA investigating allegations of corruption in Barstow

Several reliable sources have informed TVT that the Public Integrity Unit of the San Bernardino County's District Attorney's Office is conducting an active investigation, yet again, into allegations that Mayor Lawrence Dale and some members of the Barstow City Council may have engaged in unethical activities and even possibly criminal violations.

According to the District Attorney's Web site:

San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos campaigned on the issue of restoring public integrity to San Bernardino County. Within the first four months after being elected, Mr. Ramos fulfilled his promise to the electorate and created the Public Integrity Unit.

The unit, which is comprised of two attorneys, three investigators and a secretary, handles complaints involving those people holding public office. Some types of issues might involve: The illegal use of campaign funds; residency violations; and, open meeting/Brown Act violations. The Unit will be responsible for monitoring City Councils, elected Boards and Commissions.
Several years ago, following complaints that Mayor Dale had lead the Barstow City Council into various Brown Act violations related to the BarWest casino scheme, the District Attorney required Barstow's City Attorney to conduct a public workshop on ethics and California's Brown Act for the Mayor and members of the Council.

In September, Mayor Dale and a delegation of three of the four members of Barstow's City Council scheduled a secret meeting in Sacramento with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's aide to discuss plans for BarWest casinos in Barstow. When rumors of that meeting began to surface, Mayor Dale and Barstow's City Attorney Yvette Abich attempted to cure that obvious violation of the Brown Act's opening meeting rules by disclosing and providing a veiled report on the meeting after-the-fact.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney's Web site also indicates:

To insure open government, it is our expectation that there be strict compliance with the Brown Act. Our goal here will be compliance and not prosecution. Complaints and violations will be brought to the attention of an agency alleged to have violated the act. They will be monitored for compliance. Only aggravating circumstances or repeat offenses will result in prosecution. We also have the authority to file civil actions to prevent or nullify actions done in violation of the Act, and we will do so in appropriate cases.

Desert Dispatch archives on "Brown Act" related stories:
City manager's loss due to his integrity - 12.10.07
Council accused of violating Brown Act over casino meeting - 9.18.07
Who watches the watchdogs? - 9.18.07
Editorial: Getting to the hat of the matter - 12.07.06
Meetings spark debate - 8.10.05
Activist details alleged Brown Act violations - 5.09.05
Public needs to know facts about development of Indain casinos 5.05.05
Keeping the word 'casino' off council agenda may have been violation - 7.31.03
Brown Act violation claimed by city councilwoman - 4.11.01

Corruption? in Barstow: Mayor Lawrence Dale, Bureau Veritas and Micromedia Filtration, Inc.

On August 20, 2007, the Barstow City Council adopted an agenda item approving three firms that could provide future contract inspector services and directed Mayor Lawrence Dale to enter into a Professional Service Agreement with any of the three firms when the City's workload required the services of a contract inspector. Bureau Veritas was listed as one of the three contractors.

During the week of September 3, 2007, Barstow's Mayor Lawrence Dale and Councilmembers Steve Curran, Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre and Tim Silva traveled to Sacramento for the Annual California League of Cities Conference. On September 6, all four members of the City Council met with Governor Schwarzenegger's aide Cynthia Bryant to discuss Barstow's desire to host an Indian casino. Barstow's City Attorney has already attempted to cure that Brown Act violation.

TVT has learned that during trip to Sacramento, the City's contractor Bureau Veritas reportedly hosted a dinner meeting with the same four members of the City Council. There has not been any formal disclosure of that meeting. Following that dinner meeting, and after controversy erupted about the Mayor's attempts to award a $15 million sewer treatment facility contract to Micromedia Filtration, Inc., without conducting a formal open review of experienced bidders, Mayor Dale executed an agreement with Bureau Veritas to "screen" firms that would be awarded the contract.

The Sacramento dinner meeting with Bureau Veritas appears to have been yet another violation of California's Brown Act and raises serious ethics questions. One must wonder what other meetings took place that week that have yet to be made public.

When was this contract (assignment) with Bureau Veritas executed: before the hosted dinner meeting or after? What was discussed at the meeting where four members of the Barstow Council were present? Why was Bureau Veritas selected by Mayor Dale to oversee the process to award the $15 million contract and not one of the other two pre-approved contract providers? Did the Council members also meet with the other two pre-approved providers?

Barstow's former City Manager Hector Rodriguez raised concerns this Fall about Mayor Dale's attempt to ensure that the Mayor's preferred candidate Micromedia Filtration, Inc. be awarded the $15 million contract. Shortly thereafter, Rodriguez would leave his job at the City. Upon Rodriguez's departure the Desert Dispatch reported the Mayor as saying:
“I did not direct the City Manager to create an RFP that would eliminate potential bidders for the wastewater facility upgrade project,” Dale wrote in an e-mail. “In fact, the City’s consultant Bureau Veritas is now moving forward with an RFP process that will be advertised with all potential bidders.”
The question is, did Mayor Dale indicate his preference to hire Micromedia Filtration to his consultant of choice Bureau Veritas? Did Mayor Dale attempt to influence Bureau Veritas in the RFP process which he suggests is underway. Was this assignement for Bureau Veritas discussed at the dinner meeting in Sacramento in which four members of the City Council were present?

What motivates Barstow's Mayor to play such hard-ball and and undertake such risky behaviors in order to strip this important contract from one provider (HDR Engineering Inc.) and award a $15 million contract to neo-phyte Micromedia Filtration, Inc., a firm with little track record of experience? Was the Office of Congressman Buck McKeon aware of any of this prior to submittal of a new $500,000 earmark for funds that would be directed to the Barstow sewer treatment plant upgrades and possibly into Micromedia Filtration's bank account?

Ouch! MotorCity Casino's revenues fell 3.7% despite larger gambling floor

According to reports released by the Michigan Gaming Control Board MotorCity Casino's revenues for November 2007 are down 3.7% over November 2006 despite the opening of a larger gaming floor (25% larger) back in June and the much anticipated opening of MotorCity Casino's 400-room hotel property.

Analysts have numerous other reasons to have MotorCity Casino on their watch list.

MGM Grand gets tax break; MotorCity Casino has 3.7 percent decline in revenues


MGM Grand gets tax cut; casinos announce revenue

The tax rate MGM Grand Detroit L.L.C. pays to the state and city of Detroit has rolled back to 19 percent from 24 percent now that its permanent casino and hotel are fully operational.

Casino revenue was up 14.8 percent to $46.8 million in November, compared with November 2006. By comparison, MotorCity Casino showed a 3.7 percent decline to $38.3 million, and Greektown Casino L.L.C. reported a 1.3 percent increase to $28.1 million.

MGCB: 2007 Casino Revenues

Barstow Council to hear first casino update since stories that Los Coyotes terminated Michael Malik and BarWest

As posted 12. 16.07 at the Desert Dispatch:

Government Report: City Council to discuss casino projects, new city manager
BARSTOW— At 7:30 p.m. on Monday the Barstow City Council will meet to hear an update about casino projects proposed for the city and to discuss strategies to hire an interim and permanent city manager.

A casino update had been previously scheduled for the 12.03.07 City Council meeting but was pulled from the agenda at the last minute by Barstow Mayor Lawrence Dale.

The spokeswoman for the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians, Katherine Siva Saubel sent a letter to Michael Malik at BarWest terminating the tribe's agreement with Barwest back in September. And in addition, Saubel referred to Malik in a subsequent news story published 11.01.07 as "the Devil."

Documents recorded 10.01.07 with the County of San Bernardino indicate BarWest quit claimed property to a partnership (PGMC Investors) that includes the father of City Councilman Steve Curran. Previously PGMC transferred title on another parcel to BarWest LLC which BarWest combined with other properties in its portfolio and then subsequently divided into new parcels.

The Council meeting tonight can be watched live on line (using Windows Media Player) at 7:30 pm pacific time or at any time there after by logging in at

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