Chapter 3: The Dead Rat | Crooked Media
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June 14, 2023
Dreamtown: The Story of Adelanto
Chapter 3: The Dead Rat

In This Episode

Bug’s ambitious plan to save Adelanto from bankruptcy by legalizing weed seems to be working. A green rush is on. But soon, strange deals start to go down. When the FBI starts poking around, a new business and multiple politicians are caught in the crosshairs.

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TRANSCRIPT

 

David Weinberg If you like Dream Town, The Story of Adelanto and want access to early add free episodes. Join friends of the pod crooked new subscription community at crooked dot com slash friends.

 

Betsy Zyko Oh, hi there again. Glad you’re back. A lot happened and not a lot to last chapter it. Whole city council went from a snooze fest and one of them reality TV shows bug partnered up with a former pastor and a new mayor got the votes for his weed bill. And then, of course, everyone started getting dollar signs in their eyes. Adelanto’s property values started shooting up, especially in the new spot called the Green Zone. That, to me, looks like some of those city council members might have taken advantage of the situation. Anyhow, I think that’s where things stand.

 

David Weinberg For a short while. Bug’s ambitious plan to save Adelanto from bankruptcy by legalizing cannabis cultivation seemed to be working. Word about his questionable jet room deal hadn’t gotten out yet, and in the meantime, Bug was more than happy to take credit for all the optimism and new money pouring into town. He’d even become a bit of a celebrity. I’m going to be on primetime television in Paris, France. And also they think the Austrian market might pick it up. So I’ve already been across all of Europe. I’ve been Austria where I don’t get to go anywhere, but my likeness does. So it’s pretty. And Bug wasn’t the only one enjoying the good vibes. February 16, 2016, was a big day for Adelanto. The temperature at sunrise was a crisp 40 degrees, but by the afternoon it was a balmy 75. A perfect day for a grand opening. Adelanto was getting a new restaurant, Fat Boys Grill. Boys were spelled with a Z. It was in a strip mall just off Highway three, I-95, and the occasion called for a ribbon cutting ceremony. Reporter Shay Johnson covered this historic event.

 

Shay Johnson What I recall about that day. First of all, one of the things that stands out is just how germane was dressed.

 

David Weinberg The owner of this new restaurant was city council member Jermaine Wright.

 

Shay Johnson He’s got this like really bright orange shirt on. He’s got these black, what I would assume are leather gloves and then a black backwards baseball cap. And Jermaine’s a big guy. So that sort of stands out in my mind as this big man, as this big presence wearing this bright orange shirt.

 

Jermaine Wright I have owned several businesses over the years. Some have been very successful. Some have failed.

 

David Weinberg Jermaine invited a slew of important people to celebrate his newest business venture.

 

Shay Johnson Mayor Reg Kerr was there, who is obviously a close ally at that time to Jermaine and and then three aides to local governments. I’m almost certain there were individuals from the cannabis industry there. And at that time, that wouldn’t have been unusual because they had their hands involved in almost everything. Right. It almost seemed like as if they were kind of co-leading the city, if you will.

 

David Weinberg Jermaine stood proudly in his leather gloves and bright orange shirt and proclaimed that this was just the first of many grand openings that were coming to Adelanto, a city on the rise.

 

Shay Johnson You know, ultimately for him, this was I think he saw it as putting his his money where his mouth was, right? If business isn’t coming into the city, I’m going to get things kickstarted by opening up my restaurant.

 

David Weinberg Jermaine told the crowd the motto of Fat Boy’s Grill, which was the best food this side of heaven. And according to Jermaine, it wasn’t just his dream coming true. This was for the whole city.

 

Jermaine Wright If you’re a business here in Adelanto, we will support you. I’m a business owner here in Adelanto. People support me. Residents come to my restaurant and eat all the time.

 

Shay Johnson Obviously, it was a happy day in Adelanto and it was positioned as a just kind of a sign of things to come.

 

David Weinberg But the reality would turn out to be much different. Soon the news would break about Bug’s questionable jet room deal, and by the end of the following year, Jermaine would become a complete no show at city council meetings and find himself at the center of a media firestorm. For reasons that have everything to do with this new restaurant and the cannabis industry. From Crooked Media. This is Dream Town, The Story of Adelanto. Chapter three. The dead rat.

 

Clip Workshop of the Adelanto City Council, November 29, Year of our Lord 2006. Being. Make sure all your cell phones are turned down to vibrate or turn them off and take a roll call for each.

 

David Weinberg Adelanto City Council meeting, November 2016. Mayor Kerr was presiding. As usual, he kicked it off with a roll call, then handed things over to Jermaine Wright.

 

Clip And I know it’s not written on here, but we have a preacher in the house. Jermaine can say prayer and then we’ll say you. Why he’s preacher pro-Tem bishop will change those boundaries. Father was so thankful for allowing us to see another day. I pray that you bless this council as we work through this workshop, that we get information, that we move our city forward, continue to bless our city, continue to bless our staff. In Jesus name, Amen. Amen. Remain strong and flexible. I know that.

 

David Weinberg This meeting happened a little over a year after the jet room was purchased. It was also after Shay Johnson had published his article about how the owners of the Jet room have been planning to turn it into a dispensary. Long before the city had legalized cannabis sales, which, beg the question, had Adelanto City Council members taken bribes in exchange for their vote to allow the jet room to become a dispensary. Despite all this controversy, the owners of the jet room moved forward with their remodel plans.

 

Clip Okay, so you own the property right over there. It was her own property for ten years.

 

David Weinberg One of the topics on that night’s agenda was a discussion on zoning, specifically zoning for marijuana businesses. As you may remember, during the battle to bring weed to Adelanto, Mayor CR and Bug had said they would not allow any marijuana to be sold in the city. Just grown. But that promise was made long before today’s meeting and a lot had changed since then. Perhaps the biggest change was Proposition 64, which had just passed Prop 64, legalized recreational marijuana in California. The tide of public opinion on weed was shifting. The tide was also turning in Adelanto after recreational weed became legal in the state. The city passed a law allowing dispensaries.

 

Clip Discussion of medical marijuana.

 

David Weinberg And once the city decided to allow dispensaries, the council had to decide which properties in town should be zoned for marijuana sales. But first, City attorney Curtis Wright said there was another issue that needed to be addressed. The man in the clown suit.

 

Curtis Wright There’s been a request by a council member to address a couple of issues. One would be a dress code to prevent anybody coming in in any sort of garb that would be distracting or undermining.

 

David Weinberg The issue was that a man by the name of Ed Snell kept showing up to city council meetings in full clown garb to give the council a piece of his mind.

 

Ed Snell First and foremost. I have watched the marijuana industry take many twists and turns. I watched Johnny strip thousands of dollars. Not to mention the time he put in to save his town. All the lies, disrespect, deception you have shown him. Didn’t go on. See.

 

David Weinberg Mr. Snell was not happy with the way the city council was treating local marijuana proponent and dispensary owner Johnny Salazar. And Snell’s comments, along with his clown act, did not go over well with the council, especially Charlie Glasper.

 

Charlie Glasper I will not sit up here and have an idiot come in here dressed in the clowns and trying to give us some foresight or where we should be going as elected officials.

 

David Weinberg Though Glasper did seem to be okay with cowboy outfits.

 

Charlie Glasper If a man comes in here dressed in a cowboy outfit, I can buy that. Yeah, pretty much. But not a clown.

 

David Weinberg Mayor Kerr was also anti clown. One idea was to pass a dress code requiring all attendees to wear professional attire. But city attorney Curtis Wright had concerns.

 

Curtis Wright The difficulty is that if somebody is a clown by a profession and they want to come in their professional attire right now, the question is, do we have do we have to acknowledge them?

 

David Weinberg Much like a man in a clown suit at a city council meeting? I worry that we are getting distracted from the bigger issue here.

 

Charlie Glasper All right.

 

Curtis Wright Any move on the avant garde on it?

 

Clip Oh, yeah. That’s what we need to do. We need to move on to cannabis again. Discussion on cannabis dispensary zones or storm zones.

 

David Weinberg This discussion was a big deal because one thing that had become apparent in the early months of the green rush was that when you change the zoning on a property to allow cannabis operations, the value of that property skyrocketed. There were millions of dollars at stake in these zoning changes. And even though the purpose of this meeting was to allow the public to weigh in on the issue. The council already had a rough plan in place. Here’s may occur.

 

Clip We have a vision. So bear with us.

 

David Weinberg This new plan involves expanding the Green Zone beyond the industrial part of town where we’d was currently being grown.

 

Clip And to do it the right way. So we’re going to take it slow and meticulous and make sure it’s right.

 

David Weinberg The meeting ended without a decision being made, but the public had their chance to weigh in on the issue and soon the council would take a formal vote. And when they did, Bug recused himself because he had brokered the real estate deal on the jet room. But three of the five councilmembers, Jermaine Ker and Glasper, voted to approve a new dispensary zone, which included a vacant building located at 17499 Adelanto Road. Though most people knew that property as the jet room.

 

Shay Johnson So all these things sort of just add up into like none of this makes sense and it looks really bad. You got a council member who brokers the real estate deal for a building that’s purportedly to be a law office and then gets rezone for marijuana.

 

David Weinberg It’s hard to understand how someone would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a property without having a plan for what to do with it. It seems like an odd move to buy a building and think, well, this will either be a law office or a marijuana dispensary. Especially when it’s illegal to have a weed dispensary in that city. But that was the story that the owners of the jet room told when asked about their curious real estate deal. They denied that they had done anything inappropriate. Bug also denied any wrongdoing and claimed he had no idea of the plans to make the jet room a dispensary when he brokered the real estate deal. Now. I met Bug and did most of my interviews with him before I knew about the jet room deal, And my impression of him back then was that he was well-intentioned but in over his head a bit when it came to the cannabis industry. I also felt that he believed what he said when he told me things like Adelanto would become the most prosperous city in California. The early days of the green rush were heady times, and lots of people, not just bug, were imagining all the ways they would spend the mountains of cash that the good Lord would bestow upon the City of Adelanto because of its wise decision to legalize weed. Of course, that was before everything started to unravel. That’s after the break. And the first three years of Mayor Kerr’s term, Adelanto went through five city managers. The fifth was a man named Gabriel Elliott.

 

Gabriel Elliott So in a nutshell, what is city manager is the best? Perhaps parallel will be, you know, what a governor of a state does. So this is a smaller version in relation to a city.

 

David Weinberg In fact, the city manager is arguably the most powerful person in the city. The council members and mayor are only expected to put in a few hours a week. Mainly, they show up to the meetings to vote on issues and oversee the city’s business. But it is the city manager and their staff’s job to enact those laws and policies. And there was a sense that this time around, when the city hired Gabriel Elliott, they’d finally found the right man for the job.

 

Charlie Glasper You know, every chance I get to sing this man’s praises, I do it. I get a handsome Gabriel.

 

Gabriel Elliott I was elected unanimously. I had a 5 to 0 appointment at the time that I took the job there.

 

Charlie Glasper And I know you’re going to do.

 

Clip A great job for this city because you will tell us when we’re wrong and we will straighten this up and keep this city going. And so thank you for being here and being a part of our city for the world to be.

 

Gabriel Elliott That was that bright light they had been looking for. And, you know, because I took my job seriously, I was very diligent in what I did.

 

David Weinberg When he was hired. Mayor Kerr described Gabriel as, quote, one of the best people persons I have ever met. But he’s still strong enough to use the word no. That turned out to be a very prescient quote, given the dramatic turn of events that followed Gabriel’s hiring. According to Gabriel Elliott, the trouble started soon after he was hired. When Mayor Kerr asked him to file the necessary paperwork to sell one of Adelanto’s public works buildings, a place called the Emergency Operations Center.

 

Gabriel Elliott So an emergency operations center is a place where you would actually go in an emergency light. So we had a flood or or some kind of severe earthquake and everything else shut down.

 

David Weinberg According to Gabriel, the mayor told him that the city wanted to sell this building to a cannabis grower named CB Nanda, who had close ties to former Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, and that the city wanted to sell the building for far below market value.

 

Gabriel Elliott And if we sold this building to them for a million bucks when other similar buildings around that same area, you know, we’re going for four or five times more. You know, I can do that.

 

David Weinberg Gabriel refused to go along with the mayor’s requests. He also noticed a lot of other suspicious things happening at City Hall, like cannabis entrepreneurs who claimed the mayor told them their permit applications should be fast tracked without the typical oversight. He also claimed that Kerr and a city employee named Jesse Flores were taking bribes. So Gabriel contacted the district attorney and told him what he knew. Not long after reporting what he had seen the day he got a call, not from any local attorneys or city oversight agency, but from the FBI.

 

Gabriel Elliott I told them that there was no doubt in my mind that they know there was plenty of corruption going on.

 

David Weinberg Adelanto is a small town, and it didn’t take long for the mayor to find out that his own city manager was talking to the FBI. According to Gabriel, Kerr’s reaction was less than subtle. He says the mayor would draw his military issued sword from his days in the Marines and brandish it towards him, simulating a jousting motion while yelling, I will stick somebody.

 

Gabriel Elliott Very soon after that that I started getting my employment review, you know, coming before the council every other week or more frequently, looking for all kinds of ways to get rid of me.

 

David Weinberg Two months after Gabriel spoke to the FBI, he was placed on administrative leave. The reason for his leave of absence was that two city employees had accused him of sexual harassment. Gabriel claims that the accusations were untrue and he denies any wrongdoing. Published reports say that a private investigator named Michael Hynes looked into the accusations and concluded that many of the claims against Gabriel were not credible, but that he had acted inappropriately on a number of occasions, including one instance where he asked a subordinate out to lunch and another instance where he, quote, briefly touched a colleague’s clothed knee at a restaurant. Gabriel says this investigation was a sham. He was never charged with any crimes related to the sexual harassment allegations. And while he was on leave, some very big news broke.

 

Charlie Glasper To developing news. The FBI served several search warrants this morning in Adelanto. According to the Victor Valley Daily Press, agents raided City Hall and the mayor’s home. The FBI won’t say what agents were looking for.

 

David Weinberg On the morning of May 8th of 2018, after talking to Gabriel Elliott for months and building up a case, the FBI raided Adelanto City Hall and the home of Mayor Kerr. He was led from his house barefoot and in handcuffs that day. The feds also raided a third location, the jet room. They confiscated boxes of documents from all three locations, but they wouldn’t give any details about the investigation to reporters or the media. The raid was big news. It was covered by the L.A. Times and KTLA. And some people in Adelanto were shocked. But others saw it coming. And then. Nothing. That very same day the FBI just kind of left. By sundown, Mayor Kerr was a free man. Hadn’t even been charged with anything. The feds seemingly just took their boxes and walked away. The whole thing raised way More questions than answers.

 

Charlie Glasper Neighbors are stunned.

 

Clip We were surprised what happened.

 

David Weinberg So the mayor and the city council carried on denying any wrongdoing. The city council meetings kept happening every other Wednesday night.

 

Clip Regular meeting of the Adelanto City Council and a lot of public financing.

 

David Weinberg It was business as usual in Adelanto. Now, this is an ongoing case, and I can’t confirm whether Gabriel Elliott is the one who ratted out Kerr for taking bribes. But it seems natural to assume that Kerr believed that Gabriel had ratted him out. And even though Kerr had the FBI breathing down his neck and maybe should have been playing things safe. Kerr made it clear that he wanted Gabriel gone. But the mayor didn’t have the power to fire him on his own. A majority of the council had to vote to oust him, and Bug was in favor of firing Gabriel. But Ed Camargo and Charlie Glasper were not. Jermaine would have been the one to cast the deciding vote. But he was absent from the city council.

 

Clip We’ll call this Shriner Councilor Margo. Present. Councilor Glassboro. Councilor Woodard. Thank you. Mayor Pro Tem. They noted his absence absent mayor, her.

 

David Weinberg Prior typically germane, opened every council meeting with a prayer. But on this night, that duty fell to Pastor Thomas Straw’s Bar Alliance.

 

Clip Where did you pray for our city? City of Adelanto and largest with difficult news over the past 48 hours. Just ask Lord that you would help the leadership of our community Lord, to jump this hurdle and continue moving forward. I do.

 

David Weinberg The difficult news mentioned in that prayer was, in fact, the reason why Jermaine Wright was absent. He had been arrested. Months before the raid. During the time the FBI was investigating Kerr, they had been working on an additional case. And this case was against Jermaine Wright. And on the day of this council meeting, the Department of Justice put out a press release detailing the charges against him. And it was a wild story involving undercover agents, arson. And a dead rat. Jermaine’s arrest would later spiderweb out and ensnare other members of the city council who were at this moment bowing their heads in prayer.

 

Clip Would you thank you for or would you bless this council meeting now in Jesus name?

 

David Weinberg And then after the prayer, the public was invited to comment.

 

Clip We are going to hold you to 3.

 

David Weinberg Minutes and the first person to speak was none other than the city council’s least favorite clown. ET Snell

 

ET Snell Time I started just making.

 

ET Snell Sure, so I’ll get into the arguments later.

 

ET Snell And try to target Kelly instead. It started from a very junior name, so you can be sure I can write what I don’t want to do. The again. My name is ET Snell. The Clown Community activist.

 

David Weinberg Mr. Snell, decked out in his clown suit, used his 3 minutes to say what a lot of people in town suspected that Jermaine would not be the last city council member to get arrested. By the time this investigation was over.

 

ET Snell I knew it. And I’m kind of wondering where the feds do come in and polygraph all you guys. Which one of you are not going to be able to withstand a conspiracy charge? And by the way, the feds have like a 99% conviction rate. They just don’t go out and just start arresting politicians. They have probably more than the votes. What I’m most appalled about the way you would.

 

David Weinberg Who would have thought that the guy in the clown suit would be the one speaking truth to power? I often wonder if former Mayor Kerr thinks about this moment, given his unfortunate fall from grace, which we’ll get to later. So what exactly was it that Jermaine had done? That story after the break. According to the Department of Justice, shortly after Gabriel Elliott started spilling the beans about all the corruption he had witnessed, the FBI brought in an undercover agent to pose as a cannabis entrepreneur who wanted to open a business in Adelanto. And this undercover agent offered Jermaine $20,000 in exchange for his vote to expand the Green Zone to include a property where he wanted to set up business.

 

Hilal Aaron He does it very brazenly. If you’ve heard the phrase saying the quiet part loud, he seems to only say the quiet part loud.

 

David Weinberg This is Hilal Aaron, a reporter who covered Jermaine’s sentencing.

 

Hilal Aaron The FBI agent gives him the stacks of $50 bills. $10,000. The agent says that’s for you or your nonprofit whatever. And Wright says, My nonprofit. Yes, sir. Thank you very much. And just puts the cash in his shirt.

 

David Weinberg This is the same kind of scheme that allegedly occurred with the jet room that the owners of the jet room bribed city officials in exchange for their vote to zone the property for cannabis sales. And given the fact that Jermaine voted to make that zoning change happen. There was reason to believe that he may also have been offered a bribe. But perhaps the FBI didn’t have any proof that Jermaine had accepted a bribe. And that’s why they had an undercover agent secretly recorded Jermaine accepting a bribe for a fake business. And those recordings gave them a pretty solid case against him. But then Jermaine brought them a whole new silver platter of criminal charges to add on.

 

Hilal Aaron He’s talking to another FBI informant and just kind of says, you know, I would like to pay someone to burn down my restaurant.

 

David Weinberg So the informant tells right, he knows an electrician who can help him torch the place.

 

Hilal Aaron The informant introduces right to someone that they call an electrician. It was a different undercover FBI agent and hatched this scheme to get fat boys grill burned down and collect $300,000 in insurance money. Again, very kind of brazen and very, you know, not particularly careful.

 

David Weinberg So Jermaine gave this fake electrician tour of his restaurant. They set a date for the fire, and Jermaine paid him the money for the job. And it was actually kind of a steal.

 

Hilal Aaron Apparently it only cost 1500 bucks to burn down in someone’s restaurant. At least, you know, if you’re paying an FBI agent to do it.

 

David Weinberg But before the scheduled torching, the FBI showed up to the restaurant with a search warrant and they interviewed Jermaine and he confessed. So up against a wall. He agreed to cooperate with the FBI. He would wear a wire and help them gather evidence against the other targets of the corruption investigation. The poor old Jermaine didn’t seem to have learned anything from getting caught because the day after he confessed and agreed to cooperate, he calls up the informant who introduced him to the electrician and not realizing that he’s talking to an informant. He says, You’re not going to believe this. But I think that electrician we hired was a snitch.

 

Hilal Aaron So yeah, he goes to the informant and says, You brought shit to my door. I’m already in enough hot water as it is. You brought shit to my door, get shit off my door. And they he basically says, you know, you need to go and murder this person. That informed on me, which he doesn’t realize, is he’s talking about an undercover agent.

 

David Weinberg The exact words Jermaine used were that they needed to make the electrician, quote, go away. Jermaine, the former pastor, is a man of action. He’s not one to sit around and wallow in the mess he’d made for himself. No. He came up with a plan that he believed would make all his problems go away. In the days after agreeing to wear a wire, it seems that Jermaine started to have second thoughts about cooperating with the FBI. Perhaps he was scared to testify against the people he was secretly recording. Maybe they were dangerous.

 

Hilal Aaron I mean, his life is clearly falling apart. His wife leaves him and he’s being suspected of at least one, if not more, crimes. Presumably his business is not doing great, which is why I tried to burn it down.

 

David Weinberg So he comes up with a new plan. He asks one of.

 

Hilal Aaron These FBI informants, How much is it going to cost to get my ass beat? In other words, he’s trying to pay someone to beat him up. And he says, beat to the point where I have memory loss.

 

David Weinberg Now this brings us to the dead rat. Jermaine’s plan was to stage a fake robbery at Fat Boys Grill, and he suggested that his attacker should leave a dead rat next to his body for reasons I don’t totally understand. I don’t know that we’ll ever understand what was going through Jermaine’s mind as he made this series of terrible decisions. But just to recap, someone told the feds that Jermaine was breaking the law, so they sent in an undercover agent to offer him a bribe. And not only did he accept the bribe, but he told the informant that they could make even more money by burning down his restaurant. Then after getting caught, he agreed to wear a wire. But then he changed his mind and asked the informant to stage a fake robbery and hit him over the head so hard that he would get amnesia and wouldn’t have to testify in court. Which I have to say, sounds like it was ripped from the pages of a Coen brothers script. But sadly, it was not. It’s from the story of Jermaine Wright’s life.

 

Hilal Aaron Now, I may be reading too much into this, but to me it really seems like he actually wants to not remember any of this shit that he’s done. It could just be my own interpretation. But at any rate, yeah, he wants to get beat up so he can tell the FBI. Look, I don’t remember any of the stuff I did. And also, he says he thinks it will also have the benefit of maybe his wife feeling sorry for him and coming back to him.

 

David Weinberg On the morning of November 3rd of 2018, a911 call was made from Fat Boy’s Grill, and when the authorities arrived on the scene, they found Jermaine Wright lying in the parking lot. Curious thing, though, he didn’t seem to have a scratch on him. And next to him was not a dead rat, but an audio recorder. Presumably the wire he’d been wearing for the FBI. It had been smashed to pieces.

 

Hilal Aaron And so when law enforcement finds him sort of beat up outside his restaurant, the recorder is broken. And what does he say? He says something like, they got me. They try to get the recorder from me. So it’s just like real kind of Oscar winning performance there.

 

David Weinberg Four days after the attempted fake assault, Jermaine was arrested, and it did not take long for word to get out around town. Do you remember, like when you first heard about all the stuff that went down with Jermaine and what you thought about it? Like the whole crazy dead right, Like arson thing? Like what your reaction to that was?

 

Stevevonna Evans He did it. I yeah, I definitely believe the story. I didn’t care what paper wrote it.

 

David Weinberg This is Adelanto resident Stevevonna Evans.

 

Stevevonna Evans I met Jermaine probably ten years ago or so, and I’m very egotistical, very much boastful, not humble at all. He was a jerk. I did not like him. And so when the story came out, I was like, Yeah, that’ll did it. Because that’s just that was his that was his attitude. Like, I’m bigger and better than everybody and nobody can catch me and I’m gonna do what I want to do. And so it made sense to me, like I was like, He did it, bro.

 

David Weinberg Steve Varner and other Adelanto citizens were alarmed to see the feds descending on their small town. And now with Jermaine behind bars, the Adelanto City Council had a vacant seat on their hands.

 

Steve Varner And so now the council is faced with a decision on how to fill that vacancy. This seat is no longer legally belonging to Jermaine Wright. It is an empty seat under the law.

 

David Weinberg So there would be an election come June 5th, the people would decide who would replace Jermaine, Right? And that person would help determine the future of City Hall. Because amidst all these scandals may occur and Bug still wanted to fire city manager Gabriel Elliott, presumably because he had tipped off the FBI about illegal activity on the council. But they didn’t have the votes unless someone on their side won Jermaine’s seat. Someone like Joy Jennette. Joy was a longtime Adelanto resident. She was 83 years old and a local mover and shaker who was appointed to the Planning Commission in 2015 by Bug.

 

Joy Jennette Well. I’m like most residents, it just let other people do things. But in 2015, I was approached by Bugs Woodard, who is our councilman. He was elected and he wanted me to be. He wanted to point me as his commissioner. Yeah, I didn’t know her, but I did know that she had a connection with them and that she, you know, because then I knew that if she was seated, Gabriel Elliott would be voted out. Right. I knew. I felt that she was put there for a specific purpose. And, you know, it is what it is. And how I looked at that.

 

David Weinberg On the day of the vote, 17% of Adelanto’s population voted in the special election to fill Jermaine’s seat. And the winner was Joy Jennette. And not long after she was elected, Joy Jennette cast the deciding vote to fire Gabriel Elliott.

 

Gabriel Elliott She was their ace in the hole, and that’s how she got on the city council. It was all based on the promise of If you do this, we’re going to take care of you. It was a nightmare.

 

David Weinberg Two days after the firing, City Council member Charlie Glasper spoke to a local reporter and said, quote, It’s going to be a big ass lawsuit coming back at us. He was correct. Gabriel did file a lawsuit against the city for wrongful termination. And it’s ongoing. And in the aftermath of Gabriel’s firing, there was a lot of turmoil at City Hall.

 

Stevevonna Evans They did some really crazy things, and whether or not they were actually corrupt, the appearance of corruption is the problem. They were given too much power.

 

David Weinberg Stevevonna watched the mayor and his allies brag about how they’d saved the city. But throughout Bug and Kerr’s short time in charge, that much had changed except for a bunch of new weed companies opening up shop and a whole bunch of possible corruption. Meanwhile, where were all the new businesses, the hotels and the good paying jobs that the council had claimed would arrive on the heels of weed legalization? The roads were still full of potholes and the water coming out of the taps was still brown and smelled funny. Life in Adelanto had not changed much for anyone, and yet it seemed that some folks were getting rich from selling weed. So Stevevonna decided to take things into her own hands.

 

Stevevonna Evans Well, when I picked up the packet, I think it was a still a lot of confusion, like, Oh, I just need 20 signatures. And and I turn in these six papers and that’s it. It’s like, that’s all you need and it’s $25. And, and I’m like, it seems like this should be more difficult for people, but. Okay. And that’s kind of how that went in 2018.

 

David Weinberg Stevevonna’s decided to run for city council. There were two seats up for grabs. Bugs, who was running for reelection, and Charlie Glasper, who decided not to run.

 

Stevevonna Evans You have to be the change you want to see. You can’t just complain and hope that the people that put the system in place are going to change the system because they’re not.

 

David Weinberg Did it feel like a big moment in your life?

 

Stevevonna Evans Yeah. I felt like this was the path that I was going to take to change the system that had rocked my family and so many other families every year. And so definitely like a big moment. I didn’t really understand what all it entailed, but I knew that it was what I was supposed to do.

 

David Weinberg There was no grand speech from a chandelier ballroom or a splashy news conference with a bouquet of reporter microphones pointed at her. It was just Ivana inside a government building on the side of the highway in a small town in the Mojave Desert. She dotted her I’s and cross routines and a city employee asked her to raise her right hand and recite an oath saying that she was making this decision of her own free will and sound mind. Steve. I didn’t have much money, but she would scrape together what she could ask friends and family for donations and launch the best campaign. Very little money could buy. And come November. Everything else would be up to the citizens of Adelanto. They would decide who would lead them into the future. That’s next time. Dream Town. The Story of Adelanto. If you love this episode, you can hear the next one right now. For early ad free access. Join friends of the Pod Crooked’s new subscription community at crooked dot com slash friends. Adelanto is an original podcast from Crooked Media. It’s hosted, written and executive produced by me, David Weinberg. Nick White is our story editor. Angel Carreres is our associate producer, Sound Design Mix and Mastering by Brendan Baker of Phenomophon. Often our theme song is by Icarus himself, and our original score is by Eric Phillips. Fact Checking by Amy Tardif. Additional production help from Inez Mesa, Sydney Rap and Coby Copeland. Thanks to Betsy Zyko for narrating portions of the show. From Crooked Media. Our executive producers are Sarah Geissmer, Katie Long and Mary North with special thanks to Allison Falzetta, Laura Smith, Andrew Leland, Richard Parks, III, Shocker Molly and Katya Epikina.

 

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