After a mere seven days in office, Neil Derry boldly beseeched his colleagues Tuesday morning to rescind millions of dollars in projects initiated during his predecessor's last days in office.
The problem? All the documents pertaining to those projects have gone missing.
"When I took office just over a week ago the files on the fifth floor were empty," Derry told the board.
To prove the point, Derry held up a binder that was supposed to contain plans for the Moonridge Zoo relocation project. It was empty.
Whether the files were destroyed by outgoing Supervisor Dennis Hansberger, who held the position for 20 years, remains unconfirmed. Calls to Hansberger's cell phone were not returned.
Destroying the public records stored on the fifth floor of the county government center, where the supervisors' offices are located, does not appear to have been illegal.
"We do not have any policy that addresses the retention or destruction of documents," said David Wert, county spokesman.
After the meeting, Derry said by telephone that he was not accusing anyone of a crime.
A transitional team had been formed to help smooth over the transfer of the 3rd district seat from Hansberger to Derry.
That team, which was hired to assist Derry at the end of the summer, was housed on the second floor of the government center, and staffers would have had no way of knowing what was occurring on the fifth floor regarding the documents, Derry said.
"We were being very careful not to intrude on Dennis Hansberger's territory," he said. "He was the supervisor and deserved the respect of that office."
Shortly before leaving office, Hansberger submitted a number of costly projects before the board for approval. Derry said the cost of the projects, which were all unanimously approved, constituted 80-90 percent of 3rd district money outside of his staff budget.
"There was a concerted effort to spend all 3rd district discretionary funds money as quickly as they could, so that it would not be there when I arrived in office," he said.
Derry said he was concerned about the funding sources of some of the programs which caused him to ask the board to rescind the funding. For example, the nearly $1 million committed to the Arrowhead Manor Water Company to repay a state loan should have come out of redevelopment agency money that had been set aside for Cedar Glen, Derry said.
In total, the money for seven projects was rescinded Tuesday. Among them was $500,000 for a traffic signal in Fawnskin for which no traffic study had been conducted. Another was $250,000 for landscape improvements at the Mentone Senior Center and Library. A $500,000 allocation for the Mountain Preservation Program in the San Bernardino Mountains was also repealed. Representatives from two local environmental groups that manage land in the mountains had said previously they were entirely unaware a program to merge sub-substandard lots had been in the works.
Derry expects that most of the projects will receive funding in the near future, but from different, more appropriate, sources.
Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt said during Tuesday's meeting that he encountered a similar situation when he ascended to his post.
"Starting from nothing when there are no files is no fun," Mitzelfelt said.
He suggested the board institute a policy to prevent the destruction of documents.