Campaign launch ignites war of words
By Chris Levister –
San Manuel Chairman James Ramos announced Monday that he will run against embattled San Bernardino County Supervisor Neil Derry in the 2012 election.
In what promises to be a fierce battle for the 3rd District seat, Derry wasted no time in firing a broadside attack.
“Third District residents won’t stand for a Leona Helmsley-style politician who believes that ‘taxes are only for the little people,” Neil Derry wrote in a strongly worded statement after Ramos announced his intention to challenge him for his county seat.
Ramos launched his campaign during a news conference in front of the County Government Center in San Bernardino surrounded by a host of friends, several local leaders, council members and public safety officials, including former third District Supervisor Dennis Hansberger, Highland City Council member Penny Lilburn, San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris, San Bernardino Police Chief Keith Kilmer, Redlands Mayor Peter Aguilar, Redlands City Councilman Jon Harrison and retired Redlands Police Chief Jim Bueermann. San Bernardino Community College School Board President Carlton Lockwood, San Bernardino Community College Clerk Jon Futch, Big Bear City Councilwoman Liz Harris and Yucaipa Mayor Dick Riddell.
“Over the past several months, I have received numerous phone calls from leaders in our community asking that I consider running for the Board of Supervisors. The recent events involving Supervisor Derry, increased the urgency of those calls,” Ramos said reading from a written statement.
“The people of San Bernardino County have been let down time and time again," said Ramos, 44, who has served as San Manuel chairman since 2008. "The people cannot have faith in their government when key government officials are being ... forced to recuse themselves from important duties and votes due to legal problems.”
Ramos' announcement comes two weeks after the state Attorney General's Office filed felony and misdemeanor charges against Derry for allegedly failing to report a $5,000 campaign contribution that prosecutors believe was laundered through a political action committee controlled by former county Assessor Bill Postmus.
Referring to Ramos as the San Manuel ‘Casino Boss’, Derry called for Ramos to release his personal income and property tax records. He challenged the tribal chairman to prove he has been paying state or local taxes, citing a Los Angeles Times report that that his tribal chairman predecessor did not.
“Is Mr. Ramos a tax scofflaw too?” Derry wrote.
Derry also questioned whether Ramos was eligible to serve as an elected leader of a ‘sovereign tribal nation’ with a separate court system.
“An elected official cannot serve two masters,” he said. “How can Mr. Ramos be held accountable for his actions when he is protected by his own tribal courts and is receiving lucrative special interest tax exemptions that are available to almost no one else in San Bernardino County?”
Ramos' campaign manager, David Gilliard, said Ramos is eligible to run for supervisor.
Since the adoption of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, which granted full U.S. citizenship to America's indigenous peoples, many Native Americans have served in elected offices.
“Any debate of whether (Native Americans) could vote or run for office ended in 1924,” Gilliard said.
Ramos is an elected member of the San Bernardino Community College Board of Trustees. In January 2011 he was appointed to the powerful State Board of Education by Governor Jderry Brown. He holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the University of Redlands.
He has served on numerous boards and organizations promoting business, economic and social opportunities in the greater San Bernardino area.
At his news conference, Ramos pledged to attract more business to the county, maintain and create more jobs, cut government waste and duplication, and work to reach a balanced budget with prudent reserves.
Should Ramos be elected supervisor, Gilliard said he would seek the advice of county counsel on any agenda item having to do with the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.
It was unclear Monday whether Ramos would step down as San Manuel chairman or opt against seeking another term. His term as chairman ends in April.
Gilliard said Ramos will be discussing that issue with tribal members and will likely make an announcement next week.
He also said Derry's statement - which calls Ramos a "casino boss" and a "Leona Helmsley-style politician," referring to the billionaire hotel operator who was convicted of tax evasion - is offensive.
“We think it's telling that Neil Derry's first reaction to having a challenger would be to go on such a negative attack," Gilliard said. "It's just so over-the-top, the first thing out of the box.”
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