About Steve Scauzillo

I love journalism. I've been working in journalism for 32 years. I love communicating and now, that includes writing about environment, transportation and the foothill/Puente Hills communities of Hacienda Heights, Rowland Heights, Walnut and Diamond Bar. I write a couple of columns, one on fridays in Opinion and the other, The Green Way, in the main news section. Send me ideas for stories. Or comments. I was opinion page editor for 12 years so I enjoy a good opinion now and then.

Walnut will fight Mt. SAC’s plans to grade hillside for solar project

Mt SAC solar panels project rendering

Mount San Antonio College will start grading a hillside in Walnut next month for an 11-acre solar-generating project over the objections of the Walnut City Council, according to college officials.

College President William Scroggins said Monday he expects grading to start at the end of November or early December, apparently rebuffing repeated attempts from Walnut City Manager Rob Wishner and his staff as late as Monday afternoon to require a Conditional Use Permit.

The college answered the city, saying it is exempt from the city’s zoning and permit ordinances.

“We are not going to request a CUP,” said Scroggins, president and CEO of Mt. SAC, the largest community college in the state, located entirely in Walnut just west of Cal Poly Pomona.

The city of Walnut and the community college have been locked in a battle over several developments at the college and whether the city should have a say. A neighborhood group sued and won an injunction against a college parking garage. The city also sued, saying any project that is not a classroom must go through the Planning Commission for approval.

“The city will do everything in its power to make certain grading does not begin next month and does not happen until they go through our process,” Wishner said Tuesday.

A clause in the government code gives the college the freedom to build energy projects without a city permit, Scroggins said. The city’s zoning laws say any public utility or other energy uses in a residential zone requires a CUP.

The city considers such an exemption for “site specific” projects such as solar panels on one home or one building. Since Mt. SAC is building a 2.2-megawatt solar-generating facility with hundreds of panels on a 24-acre, college-owned parcel across the street at Temple Avenue/Amar Road and Grand Avenue, as well as an underground conduit to supply power to college buildings, this project should not be exempt from city zoning laws, said Michael Montgomery, Walnut’s city attorney.

On Monday, the city asked the California Energy Commission if a college building a large solar photovoltaic project is exempt from local zoning laws. “Proposition 39 does not exempt any Local Educational Agencies from complying with local laws,” wrote Simon Fllippov of the CEC’s Prop. 39 Hotline, in an email to city staff.

“We don’t feel that section (of state law) precludes Mt. SAC from having to attain local approvals,” said Tom Weiner, Walnut’s director of community development.

In a meeting last week, the City Council struggled with how to stop the project or convince the college to build it within the campus, not near homes. The City Council asked staff to bring experts on the California Environmental Quality Act to its next meeting on Oct. 28. One of the issues involves taking dirt from the college’s Hilmer Lodge Stadium to the solar site and contouring the steep hillside to accommodate ground-level solar panels.

Weiner estimated dump trucks carrying dirt would be crossing the city’s major intersection and traveling through Walnut streets five or six days a week for several months. “It would be an impact,” he told the City Council.

The solar project will cost approximately $7 million and will eventually shave the college’s electric power bill by about $400,000 a year, Scroggins said.

Hacienda Heights, La Puente candidates running for HLPUSD school board

By Steve Scauzillo

date: Sept. 1, 2015

In the San Gabriel Valley’s largest school district, issues of budgets, aging school facilities and special programs such as the Chinese-language Confucius Classroom have surfaced in the past.

Today, the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District seems to have moved forward, as surplus properties and funding more science and computer programs have come into play as election day rolls around Nov. 3.

Six candidates are vying for two of the five school board seats. With incumbent Jay Chen leaving the board, the only board member on the ballot is Gino Kwok, and he is accompanied by five challengers. The candidates are:


Chin, 73, is a psychiatrist who practices in Whittier. He has lived in Hacienda Heights for 43 years, having sent his two sons through HLPUSD schools.

He would like to focus on improving mental health services in the schools and increasing safety on the campuses.

“I want to make sure students are safe and secure from any violence going on in today’s world and help those with anger issues so they do not resort to vengeance,” Chin said.

If elected, he would work on establishing ROTC programs in the high schools so students can learn discipline and acquire leadership skills.

On campaigning, Chin said he would not spend much money.


De La Torre, 46, has lived in Hacienda Heights 15 years. Currently a social studies teacher at Los Angeles Unified School District, he has also been an academic counselor and an intervention counselor.

“I believe the board would benefit from someone with my experience,” he said.

He would like to bring down class sizes at Los Altos High School by hiring more teachers. He wants to acquaint students with technology by providing laptop computers to every student.

He has two children, ages 11 and 13.


Guido, 53, lives in La Puente and has worked as a school bus driver for the Montebello Unified School District for the past 31 years.

The main issues he sees in the district are student safety and providing more services for the homeless and for disadvantaged students, he said in an email.

“There must be greater community involvement,” he said.

He served on various committees with the Montebello school district.

He is working toward a bachelor’s degree in human resources from the University of La Verne.


Hornell is in his first year as a full-time German language professor at Fullerton College. Before that he taught Mandarin at West Covina Unified School District.

Hornell said he was encouraged to run by Norman Hsu, 80, a leader in the Asian community. He called Hsu “an inspiration.”

He wants to enhance the district’s STEM program (science, technology, engineering and math) and stop the flow of HLP students to Walnut and Fullerton school districts.

“A lot of people tell me we sent our kids to another district because they have better programs there,” he said.


Kwok, of Hacienda Heights,  won a seat on the board in 2011 and is seeking his second, four-year term. He is a trial lawyer and also teaches law.

Kwok, 52, said he is running on his record, which includes implementing improvements to campus buildings and athletic fields, as well as new surveillance cameras and fire alarms.

He’s proud he and fellow board members established computer programming classes at the high school level but wants to see the curriculum expanded to middle schools.

He’s visited every school site and has attended 250 events during his tenure, he said.

“The biggest accomplishment I can ever have is uniting our community for all of our children,” he said. Kwok also donated 1,000 musical instruments to the district and helped start dual-immersion language programs that incorporate music instruction.


Medrano, 26, grew up in Hacienda Heights and graduated from Los Altos High School. He is an aide to Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens.

“I know the community and I think I can do a real good job,” he said, adding: “We do need to do more for students who need the most.”

Medrano said he would focus on more support for arts funding and reducing class size.

When asked if his age was a detriment, he said: “It is an asset. It is a positive for me.”

He hopes to spend about $30,000 on the campaign.

Rowland Heights residents fight cell phone tower at Mobil Station

ROWLAND HEIGHTS >> A group of residents is protesting the construction of a 50-foot cell phone tower proposed for the back of a gas station, saying the structure would depress property values.

Neighbor Michelle Nicolaus, who resides about 400 feet from the proposed structure to be built in the rear of a Mobil station on the northeast corner of Fullerton Road and Mescal Street, has led an effort to deny Verizon a permit to build the repeater tower.

Nicolaus has gathered 150 signatures on a petition asking Verizon to locate it somewhere else, she said.

“It will be an eyesore,” she said. “You walk out my front door and I’ll be staring at a cell tower. It will be so close to the homes it will drop our property values,”

A July 21 meeting of the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning’s hearing officer in downtown Los Angeles was continued to 9 a.m., Aug. 18 at the request of Nicolaus and Kindgon Chew, past president of the Rowland Heights Community Coordinating Council.

The RHCCC has not taken an official position on the cell tower. Nicolaus will bring up the issue Monday at the group’s community meeting. She’s hoping to bring about 30 or 40 neighbors to the Aug. 18 public meeting, which takes place in a hearing room in the Hall of Records, 320 W. Temple St., Los Angeles.

Verizon is asking for a Conditional Use Permit to build a tower that would include 12 panel antennas, one microwave dish, two fiber demarcation boxes as well as equipment cabinets and a generator. The property is surrounded by homes on the north, east and west and a small strip mall to the south.

Planning documents say there were two communications received before the July 21 meeting: one in support and one against. The county mailed 114 notices of the public hearing to property owners living within a 500-mile radius, county records show.

Documents show residents are concerned about the installation generating graffiti but that would be remedied by additional landscaping.

Nicolaus said she spoke to a subcontractor and asked if the communications tower can be added to an existing one across the street, which was built to resemble a pine tree. She said the answer was no, because additional antennas sticking out of the structure would foil the design and violate the CUP. Nicolaus has asked the communications company to build the tower in a nearby park instead, but was told the leasing of the land would be triple the amount.

“This is something that is not favorable to our neighborhood,” she said


Industry fires city attorney, hires Jamie Casso of West Covina

Casso serves as city attorney of La Puente

CITY OF INDUSTRY >> The City Council fired its city attorney Wednesday and hired an attorney who helped steer the city of Bell through a corruption scandal that nearly brought down the southeastern Los Angeles County city.

West Covina attorney James Casso was named the new city attorney of this business-centric city that, like Bell six years ago, faces criminal probes from the county District Attorney’s Office and State Controller Betty Yee for corruption involving its finances and contracts with companies owned by former City of Industry Mayor Dave Perez.

“He was called in during the Bell situation. He’s a person the DA can trust,” said newly elected City Councilman Newell Ruggles. “We wanted to bring in someone from the outside, someone that did not have any business with the city or its staff.”

Casso, hired by the Bell successor management team and City Council between Aug. 4, 2010, and July 28, 2011, said he was very familiar with how the DA and the state controller’s office worked. Investigations in Bell resulted in the conviction of seven city officials, including former City Administrator Robert Rizo, assistant City Administrator Angeles Spaccia and former Mayor Oscar Hernandez, as well as four City Council members, all on corruption charges.

“There is no personal animus. My concern is to do what is in the best interest of the City of Industry,” Casso said after the meeting.

During the brief meeting, the Industry City Council — including the three newcomers Mark Radecki, Cory Moss and Ruggles elected June 2 — voted 3-1 to fire Michele Vadon and her firm, Burke, Williams & Sorensen. Councilman Jeff Parriott voted no.

Vadon, wearing a black suit, left the meeting in tears and declined to comment. Before the closed session, she asked new Mayor Mark Radecki if she was needed in the closed door meeting and she was told no. Vadon had served as city attorney for 17 years.

City Manager Kevin Radecki, Mark’s brother, has said the three newcomers ran as a slate at the behest of former Mayor Perez, who the city and Vadon sued in September for breach of contract and in May forpublic corruption.

In the May lawsuit, Industry alleged Perez, who served as mayor from 2001 to 2012, conspired with his family members to bilk more than $200 million through vague and erroneous invoices that possibly resulted in massive overpayments for maintenance work. A review of those invoices by the firm KPMG found Perez and his family’s companies made $326 million over 20 years from contracts with the city.

Kevin Radecki said earlier in the day he was handed a typed memo indicating the council would dismiss the city attorney and the city manager, The part about the city manager was crossed out but could still be read. Radecki said he believed the council would fire him next or place him on administrative leave and that and the memo was “a message.”

Ruggles said the council is looking into dubious actions taken by Kevin Radecki, including his challenges to eight ballots during the June 2 election. Radecki challenged the residency of Moss’s father and Ruggles’ grandmother’s significant other who lived at her Industry home for six years, Ruggles said.

All of Radecki’s challenges were rejected and the eight ballots were counted Monday during the election final tally.

Ruggles accused the city manager of spying on voters and following them home.

“I find it voter intimidation,” Ruggles said.

Casso’s contract will be voted on by the City Council at the June 15 meeting, Mayor Mark Radecki announced. “The vote on the contract will be held in open session,” he added.

Staff Writer Jason Henry contributed to this article.

Walnut sues Mt. San Antonio College

By Rich Irwin and Steve Scauzillo

WALNUT >> The city and concerned residents filed separate lawsuits against Mount San Antonio College this week, claiming the community college is violating the city’s zoning ordinance and breaking environmental laws. It is the latest attempt by the City Council and residents to stop construction of a controversial $48.5-million parking structure off Mountaineer Road.

“We have to hold their feet to the fire, they’re not complying with the law,” said Councilman Bob Pacheco after the City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to sue Mt. SAC. “We have to challenge their actions because the college has not been straight with us.”

Mt. SAC began construction March 18, one week after receiving approval from the Division of the State Architect. On Wednesday, work continued, as workers cut down campus trees facing Mountaineer Road to make way for the parking garage.

“They want to play hardball and be obnoxious about it. They are marching ahead and shoving it in the public’s face. But they know this is going to get overturned,” said Craig Sherman, San Diego-based attorney for United Walnut Taxpayers.

The residents’ lawsuit claims the college violated the California Environmental Quality Act by not crafting a separate environmental impact report on the 2,300-space garage project. It also argues the city did not present voters of Measure RR, a $353-million bond issue adopted in 2008 with a full description of the project, a violation of Proposition 39. The third cause of action mimics the city’s lawsuit and claims Mt. SAC should not be exempt from city zoning laws.

“I think we got them dead to rights,” Sherman said.

In an interview Thursday, Mt. SAC President William Scroggins said the college received the residents’ lawsuit and its attorneys are preparing a response to present to the Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday. “We feel we have a good basis in both statute and case laws that support our position,” he said.

As an educational institution, Mt. SAC contends it is exempt from city zoning laws and therefore, only needs approval from the state architect.

“We’ve done each of the required steps in terms of environmental impact, traffic studies, the construction design and approval by the state,” he wrote in a news release.

Scroggins said the college does not plan on stopping construction. Sherman said his group, made up mostly of Timberline residents whose homes would be as close as 120 feet from the structure, may ask for an injunction if construction doesn’t stop immediately.

“We think it would be foolish for the district to proceed in light of the lawsuits and very clear violations,” he said.

• PHOTOS: Walnut, resident group sue Mt. SAC over parking garage

The city lawsuit claims Mt. SAC is building the five-story garage with two levels underground on land zoned for homes but never asked for a zoning variance. City Attorney Mike Montgomery of San Marino said school districts are exempt from following city zoning codes, but college districts are not.

Pacheco noted that in a 2002 Environmental Impact Report, Mt. SAC proposed two smaller parking structures in other areas within the college. Sherman said the college only published “boilerplate language” about increasing parking and circulation but never called out the specific project and location to voters; as a result, it can’t use Measure RR monies to build the project.

Homeowners protested for more than a year after the college presented plans for the massive garage on top of an existing parking lot next to the Timberline neighborhood. During the year-long battle, the City Council sided with the homeowners. In February, it directed its attorney to send a letter asking the college to reconsider the project.

“They want to put a five-story structure 120 feet away from the residences. It is not in accordance with zoning and the city’s general plan,” Montgomery said.

The city’s lawsuit claims the parking structure “will impact the surrounding neighborhood, including traffic, noise, land use and aesthetics.” Mt. SAC countered, saying the location is best suited to meet student parking needs because it would be near most classrooms.

Councilwoman Mary Su says the city wants the college to build a parking structure in the center of campus, away from homes. She said Mt. SAC Trustees turned down invitations from the city to talk about a location change.

“If this lawsuit can win their attention, we can sit down and talk and come to an agreement,” Su said on Thursday.

But the college has not indicated a willingness to change locations.

Mt. SAC board member Manuel Baca called the parking garage “a dilemma” that now will be settled in the courts. He said Walnut and Mt. SAC serve different populations.

“This is the place (for the garage) where it makes the most sense,” he said.


Walnut expands battle with Mt. SAC, adding stadium expansion and solar project to list

Walnut threatens to stop Mt. SAC Hilmer Lodge Stadium expansion, other college projects /March 12, 2015

WALNUT >> The City Council escalated the war with Mount San Antonio College Wednesday night, saying it will try to stop other projects, including a $62 million upgrade to Hilmer Lodge Stadium that comes with a play to host the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in 2020.

“The city of Walnut fully intends to enforce city zoning code regulations, city general plan guidelines and state land use law as it pertains to any proposed development at Mount San Antonio College,” the city posted on its website Thursday.

The widening gulf between the upper middle class suburb and the largest community college in California — located within the city limits — comes after a yearlong battle in which neighbors, and then the city, have demanded Mt. SAC not build a five-story parking garage adjacent to Walnut homes off Mountaineer Road.

While that battle continues, the city wants veto power over: the stadium project, set to break ground this summer; a 13,500-square-foot food court with seating for 290 people; a 10,000-square foot fire academy/training tower and a solar-power generation system to be built on land west of Grand Avenue or on top of the proposed parking structure in the northwest part of campus.

Walnut is poised to file a lawsuit against the college, saying its parking garage project should be subject to city codes and approval. Educational institutions and projects are exempt from municipal zoning but must gain approval from the Division of the State Architect (DSA). Mt. SAC has not sought city approval.

Another legal argument involves whether the parking structure is an “educational classroom” and therefore exempt. But recent court cases in Orange County have challenged community college projects for fast-food restaurants and dormitories, arguing they are commercial or residential, not educational, and must gain local approval.

Mt. SAC recently amended its application to the DSA to add a solar panel project which would be affixed to the top level, said Walnut City Attorney Mike Montgomery.

He claims the solar project is an attempt by Mt. SAC to avoid being subject to Walnut’s zoning codes by adding an energy element. Energy or water-saving projects by state institutions are excluded from local review, he said. In the last few months, Mt. SAC has said the college will also use the structure for firefighter training and for astronomy classes.

“All of a sudden it has a solar panel, before that fireman’s ropes and a telescope? It is not a classroom. It is a parking structure,” Montgomery said at the meeting attended by 30 Timberline residents.

The City Council threw every possible weapon against the college’s expansion plans during the heated meeting Wednesday night in which residents complained the city efforts were “too little, too late.”

One of those ideas would be an outright ban on large trucks on Mountaineer Road, where dump trucks would need to pass to build the $45 million, 2,200-space parking garage. The city has not yet received an excavation permit request from the college, said city staffers, but hinted if it did, it could turn it down.

The city will establish an ad-hoc committee to address Mt. SAC’s projects. The city is considering sending a mailer to all Walnut residents on the city’s position regarding the garage and future college projects. The makeup of the committee will be discussed on March 25, the next City Council meeting, said City Manager Rob Wishner.

Councilman Robert Pacheco intimated the community, or even individual council members, could use political strategies. He mentioned that three of the seven Mt. SAC trustees are up for re-election in November: Fred Chyr, Roseanne Bader and Manuel Baca.

“These folks are concerned about their re-election,” he said during the meeting. Pacheco added: “We are going to keep their feet to the fire.”

Frustrated Walnut residents, who agree with the city’s stance that the parking structure will hurt property values and could snarl traffic further, said they want more than talk.

“This snail’s pace isn’t going to work,” said Layla Abou-Taleb, a Timberline resident and a member of resident group opposing the parking garage. “What we need from you is action.”

The residents wanted Walnut to file its lawsuit. Council members and staff spoke vaguely about legal remedies but said they could not speak about them in a public session.

Montgomery told the Council that he recently learned that letters from the City Council objecting to the parking garage were never delivered to the Mt. SAC board. “They are absolutely arrogant. It is pretty clear litigation is going to result,” he said.


Who will manage the land in the backyard of the cities? (PS: the forest)

By Steve Scauzillo

Shortly after the 2009 Station Fire burned through 160,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest, Supervisor Jody Noiron was reassigned amid pointed criticism of her handling of the largest fire in L.A. County history from Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, and County Supervisor Mike Antonovich.

Earlier this month, Angeles Forest Supervisor Tom Contreras, the man who took her place, quietly resigned his post, leaving the most-visited national forest in the nation without a permanent supervisor for the second time in five years.

Unlike his predecessor, Contreras, known as a perfectionist and neat freak, was generally praised for his handling of the Powerhouse Fire near Santa Clarita and the Colby Fire above Glendora and Azusa during his watch. Both were contained quickly, limiting property damage.

Aside from effective wildfire management, Contreras will be known as the forest supervisor who ushered in a more tumultuous change: the dedication of 346,177 acres — about half of the Angeles National Forest — as a national monument by the president of the United States.

Contreras took great pride in the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, according to a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service. But speculation remains that the monument status and the flood of management changes it brings from Washington and Northern California to the Angeles headquarters in Arcadia may not have included the veteran forester.

“He wanted to leave on a high note,” said Sherry Rollman, public affairs officer, who said Contreras took a position assisting the regional forester in Vallejo. He will retire this spring with 35 years in the USFS. He declined repeated requests for interviews.

Contreras came from the Mendocino National Forest in Northern California, first as interim and then he was named Angeles Forest Supervisor in August 2011. Rollman said he made up his mind to retire after President Barack Obama dedicated the monument in October during a visit to the San Gabriel Valley. His bio touts his coordination with the National Forest Foundation and the Los Angeles Conservation Corps in restoring trails and campgrounds closed by the devastating Station Fire in Big Tujunga-Sunland.

In addition, Mike McIntyre, district ranger of the Los Angeles River Ranger District, has retired. McIntyre worked closely with volunteer groups who provide the manpower for forest improvement projects. He worked as an archaeologist on the Angeles before becoming district ranger.

“The loss of Mike McIntyre is a loss of experience on this forest,” said Glen Owens, cabin owner and president of the Big Santa Anita Canyon Historical Society. “This is an urban forest. It is a unique challenge.”

In addition, the Forest Service will fill three new positions: a volunteer coordinator, a partnership coordinator and an interpretive and conservation ranger. These positions were added as a result of extra funding from the monument.

Shane Jeffries, who came over from the Deschutes National Forest in central Oregon, became interim monument manager in November but his assignment will expire next month. Daniel Lovato, deputy forest supervisor on the Angeles, is acting forest supervisor. John Thornton, district ranger for the San Gabriel River Ranger District, is acting deputy forest supervisor.

“Things are changing: slowly, but quickly at the same time,” Rollman said.

Challenges in management are twofold. The monument, created on Oct. 10, 2014, added new complexities to the forest, officially named in 1908 but set aside as a reserve in 1892. Also, the soon-to-be produced monument plan will emphasize reaching out to 15 million Southern Californians who live within a 90-minute drive of the monument. Of those, 48 percent are Latino, according to the Forest Service.

“The exciting part is to focus management on serving the diverse communities (of Southern California). That is the new challenge for the Angeles and all our public lands,” said Daniel Rossman, chairman of San Gabriel Mountains Forever.


West Covina says no to new homes on industrial properties

West Covina votes against plan for 132-homes on industrial properties

The back and forth over the proposed project at the former Blackard’s Towing and Pick’s Lumber properties near San Bernardino Road and Orange Avenue dragged the meeting past 1 a.m. The council at that time chose not to move forward with it in a 3-2 vote, with Councilmen Mike Spence and Steve Herfert dissenting. It will come back for a final denial on Feb. 3.

The council members opposed said they liked the idea of the development but that they did not think it was a right fit for the manufacturing zone it would have occupied. Those in favor called it a chance to remove eyesores from the community and replace them with much needed housing.

WC Homes LLC pitched the project as “starter homes” for working professionals and young families who could not afford the single-family houses prevalent throughout West Covina. The three-story condominiums were going to have three to four bedrooms and cost around $400,000.

The developers originally got green light from the West Covina council in 2013, but a judge reversed that decision this summer after saying the city did not do the appropriate noticing before granting the zone change.

# # #


Out: West Covina City Manager Chris Chung

By Jason Henry

West Covina will pay City Manager Chris Chung $440,000 to retire early after the council decided they no longer wanted him to lead.

Chung, who was appointed by a previous council in December 2012, signed a separation agreement with the city this week that stipulates that he will receive 18 months of compensation — a combination his $195,000 salary and benefits — to leave before his contract expires in 2016. Chung will get $180,000 on Dec. 24, followed by $260,743.49 on Jan. 6.

In exchange, the city, which would have paid 12 months of severance if it had fired him, gets a waiver of his right to sue them, according to City Attorney Kimberly Barlow.

Chung, the city’s former redevelopment director, was seen by some as the last remnant of a council that residents largely voted against last year. The council this year also dismissed long-standing City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman. Chung’s dismissal was predicted last year by the outgoing City Council, which tried to change his contract during one of its last meetings to include 18  months of severance and language that made a non-renewal of his contract the same as firing him. The attempt to protect Chung drew outrage, and the matter was tabled.

Lloyd Johnson, an activist and a council candidate for 2015, said Chung needed to go so the city could move forward.

“The old regime is gone, and Chris was part of that,” Johnson said.

Chung did not return calls for comment, but he released a statement through the city.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve the City of West Covina over the past 16 years and I wish to thank all the hard-working and talented city employees who have dedicated their lives to make West Covina the great city it is today and will further be in the future,” Chung stated. “West Covina will always be in my heart.”

The decision for him to retire early came after months of closed-door evaluations, according to Councilman Mike Spence.

“I think it’s important that all of us agreed it was a step in the right direction,” Spence said. “It’s something that needed to take place.”

Spence said he and his colleagues agreed that they wanted their city manager to reflect the current council, not the city’s past leadership.

Mayor Fred Sykes, who has long clashed with Chung, said he wished Chung the best and that the city intends to move forward in a “positive direction.”

“When you’re losing staff and the city seems to be having trouble, we simply thought that we had to bite the bullet and take a new direction,” he said. “The previous council really put us in a tough spot with mismanagement and so forth, now we have to work hard to get things back on track.”

Sykes referenced recent claims by two former department heads who blamed Chung for low morale in City Hall when asked about the dismissal. The state controller this year also launched a comprehensive audit of West Covina’s books, citing questionable financial reports.

Sykes said poor voter turnout and a lack of civic engagement in the city is to blame for any problems the city is having.

“We need people to be more directly involved and participating so that in the future things will hopefully go smoother and healthier,” he said.

The city is already looking for an interim city manager to lead while it searches for Chung’s replacement. Barlow said she expects to call a special meeting about the position “soon.”


New in Covina: Killer bees

German Shepherd mixes, Wolf and Luna, were stung by bees Sunday in Covina. Luna died from her injuries and Wolf is receiving treatment. (Courtesy Photo) 

Heather Umphenour and her family returned home Sunday night to find their two German Shepherd-mixed rescue dogs in the backyard covered with bee stings and surrounded by hundreds of dead bees. One dog, Luna, died from her injuries, while her brother, Wolf, is still receiving veterinary care.

Umphenour fears the next attack might happen to a person.

“My children are crying themselves to sleep and for this to happen to somebody’s child, it would be horrible,” Umphenour said. “I want people to be informed that they’re in the area and that you have to look out.”

Most wild honeybees in the San Gabriel Valley, hybrids of European and African strains, are commonly known as “killer bees,” according to the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District. Killer bees aggressively protect their hive and swarm threats en masse.

Umphenour, who has four children, said she’s never seen a hive at their home near Gladstone High School in approximately seven years of living there. Umphenour and her husband rescued Wolf and Luna when they were 8-week old puppies roughly a year ago. The brother and sister often wrestled and rough housed in the fenced-in back yard.

The family spent most of the day Saturday clearing out the backyard and trimming the family’s lemon trees, but did not see any bees or signs of bees, Umphenour said. It’s unclear where the swarm originated from.

Umphenour said she’s already warned officials at the nearby school and informed the city’s public works department.

“The whole situation is just mind blowingly shocking,” she said. “I just hope it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

Wolf, who remains at the Inland Valley Emergency Pet Clinic, was stung primarily on his face. His swollen eyes blocked his sight until Tuesday, according to the pet clinic’s Medical Director Jeff Patlogar.

“We kind of take it day by day. He’s a little bit more responsive today,” Patlogar said Tuesday afternoon. “The swelling is a bit better than it was yesterday, but he’s not out of the woods yet.”

A few bee stings are common each year, typically during the summer. Hundreds, if not thousands of stings, are rare, Patlogar said.

The severe reaction from the bee stings causes swelling, vomiting, weakness and seizures. Several hundred stingers have already been removed from Wolf’s tongue and many more are still coming out. The stings inside the mouth come from the dog biting at the bees, Patlogar said.

He’s expected to stay at least several more days.

A family friend set up a GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/umphenours to help cover the veterinary costs, which are expected run about $6,000.

“We’re trying to keep our dog alive, that’s where all of the money is going,” Umphenour said.


Jason HenryReach the author at jason.henry@sgvn.com or follow Jason on Twitter:@JasonMHenry.