A Hostile Takeover of Yucaipa? (1-16-2023)

Many of us are still in shock and disbelief about what happened at the first City Council meeting of 2023, on Monday, Jan 9th: Ray Casey, our City Manager for 14 years, and David Snow, our City Attorney, were fired without cause and despite many pleas from prominent Yucaipa luminaries not to do so.

What happened!?

After the public portion of the City Council meeting, there was a closed session where the current City Council voted behind closed doors on firing both our City Manager of many years and Yucaipa’s City Attorney. The vote to dismiss Casey was 3:2 with Jon Thorp and Chris Venable voting against and Bobby Duncan, Justin Beaver, and Matt Garner for letting him go. For Snow, it was 4:1 with Jon Thorp being the only one voting on keeping him as City Attorney. The public was later told that Ray Casey “retired”, but that is rather unlikely because his contract had just been extended for another two years, until 2024. It is more likely that he received a severance package, should he ask for the early termination of his contract.

With an annual salary of about 300K, a severance package cannot be cheap – so much about being fiscally conservative! Immediately after Casey and Snow were let go, two friends of Duncan - Chris Mann and Steven Graham - were appointed as the new City Manager and Attorney. Conveniently, they had been waiting in the parking lot during the council meeting and they were at hand when they were appointed.

Chris Mann is not an unknown person in Yucaipa. He is a Yucaipa resident and president of the Yucaipa Valley Water District, a powerful group, especially in a drought prone area like ours. Mr. Mann is the current City Manager of Canyon Lake, a gated recreational-type community of about 11K that is located between Lake Elsinore and Menifee that last year ran a deficit of $572K with city revenue of $6.9 million – not exactly a success story. Yucaipa by comparison has a current surplus of $23 million with a current annual budget of $32 million. Canyon Lake, Wikipedia

He also owns Mann Communications, an aggressive political campaign management company that rumor has it was behind the dishonest mailers sent out on behalf of Matt Garner.

Steven Graham was the former City Attorney of the same community (Canyon Lake), working with Mr. Mann. We have heard from credible sources that the City of Canyon Lake was blind-sided by Mann and Graham putting in their resignation, a strange fact because this must have been planned for a long time. This constitutes a very unprofessional and disloyal move for leaders who were supposed to look after the well-being of the people and the city.

We have received quite a few e-mails with future public comments and letters to the editor that we will share once they are published/presented; all of them sharing their disgust and disbelief of what has happened, asking great questions about the legitimacy, true reasons, possible consequences of what happened on January 9th and many other issues that seem at least very strange with what has happened in the recent past in Yucaipa.

The role of a City Council - the executive portion of local government - is to guide a community and make decisions on behalf of its citizens. The reason that these positions are elected by the people is to create a system of checks and balances that keeps watch over what city staff is doing. A well-working City Council listens to the pulse of a city and concerns of its citizens, making levelheaded decisions that will benefit the greater good of a community, and advising and directing city staff to take appropriate actions.

This system of shared responsibility and mutual trust and respect has worked well for Yucaipa and its people since its incorporation in 1989. Yucaipa is well-respected, a desirable place to live and work, with a positive balance sheet even during these uncertain times. It appears most of the current City Council members - Jon Thorp being the lonely exception - are not aware of that legacy that has worked so well in the past and their responsibility when they were elected to office. Today, the workings of Yucaipa’s City Council look rather opaque, self-serving, and resulting in arbitrary rulings and directions, a behavior that is usually associated with the inner workings of a “Banana Republic”.

What can you do?

  • Like always, go to city meetings (council and planning commission) and voice your opinion. You, the people, are in charge, this is our town, not theirs. Being on the City Council is an honor, not a birthright.
  • Talk to your family and friends, because many of our neighbors are simply not aware of the recent developments in Yucaipa.
  • Subscribe to our e-mail list or read our website. For those of you who subscribe, we will send only updates when something is about to happen or if we have learned about something noteworthy.
  • Subscribe and read the News Mirror, because although it is owned by sources close to the current City Council, you will get a glimpse of what is cooking in Yucaipa.

What will we do?

  • Analyze and bring you news that is fact checked, researched, and unbiased.
  • We make a point of only asking people to join our group who have no hidden agenda or business interests, but who simply love the Yucaipa that we grew up in or moved to, a small town community where people are honest and care about their neighbors, a place that grows slowly and in a smart way, and where people treasure and appreciate being able in a place like Yucaipa.

Your Friends of the North Bench