Dont want to pay rent? No problem

Don’t want to pay rent on City owned property ?  No problem – if you are friends with Mayor Barbara Hanna

2/8/11 Once again, the Banning Cultural Alliance rips off the taxpayer with full knowledge of the City Council : this time the notoriously unethical organization stiffs the public for over $ 9,000 in rental payments – and counting. And the City of Banning, led by corrupt cheerleader Mayor Barbara Hanna, does nothing about it.



On August 1st, 2009, the Banning Cultural Alliance entered into a lease agreement (view) for the Art Gallery

Banning Cultural Alliance now owes $ 9,475 in back rent on City owned Art Gallery building

building located on 130 North San Gorgonio in Banning. This building is not to be confused with the “Women’s Club” building (which the organization owns), but was bought by the City’s Redevelopment Agency in 2008, specifically for use by the Banning Cultural Alliance, (price tag $ 450,000 ).

Section 4.01 of the lease agreement calls for lease payments to begin 395 days after the lease commencement date (8/1/2009) ,  meaning lease payments came due September 1, 2010. If any of these lease payments are 10 or more days late,  late charges of 5 % shall apply ( Section 4.03 ). The agreed upon rent, as listed in Exhibit “C”, is $ 1,500 per month.

The lease also specifies in Section 1.04 that any “tenant improvements” are implemented at the sole expense of the tenant, not the City. The Cultural Alliance was even given 1 year free rent to install such improvements, but has failed to improve the property in a substantial manner.

In response to a public record request, the City of Banning has indicated that no rent has ever been received from the Banning Cultural Alliance for this property at any time.

Consequently, the Banning Cultural Alliance owes the City of Banning rent for September 2010, October 2010, November 2010, December 2010 , January 2011 and February 2011 for a total of $ 9,000 ( 6 months @ $ 1,500). For the first 5 months a 5 % late charge applies, adding another $ 375.00 to the tab. A $ 100 security deposit is also due, but was never paid either. Therefore, as of the date of this article, the total amount owed to the Banning taxpayer is $ 9,475.00.



This latest default is yet another episode of numerous financial shenanigans pulled off between the Cultural Alliance and the City of Banning over the years, all of which used the City’s Redevelopment Agency as the counter party, and all of which were embraced  and vigorously supported by the Banning City Council.

Approximately $ 1,000,000 in taxpayer cash has already been handed over to this shady organization (not counting the value of the subject Art Gallery), all supposedly for the “benefit” of Banning. But what benefits have the citizens of Banning really received for $ 1 million dollars ? We can’t think of any (unless, of course,  you believe that the Art Hop / Phineas Festival are worth that kind of dough).

Mayor Barbara Hanna : always making sure that her cronies get a "free ride"

More over, the public has yet to see a comprehensive accounting from the Cultural Alliance ; specific services, promised by the organization in various City contracts, were never performed, according to the Riverside County Grand Jury, who in 2010 asked the City of Banning to “cease and desist” doing business with the organization (view full report here). The Grand Jury also stated that the City should demand return of $ 162,000.00 + interest from the organization.

But always enjoying “divine protection” by a complicitly corrupt City Council ( i.e. Barbara Hanna, Bob Botts, Don Robinson), the Banning Cultural Alliance was never asked to repay even a single dime – which means that all this money was in effect stolen from the taxpayer. No contract was ever canceled – but wait, there is more : another $ 111,500 were given to the Cultural Alliance AFTER the Grand Jury called for a “cease and desist”.

This “divine protection” is no coincidence. Councilman Bob Botts founded Alliance, his wife is on the Advisory Board.  Councilman Don Robinson’s wife is on the Alliance’ Board. The Cultural Alliance even used taxpayer funds to polish up both Botts and Robinson’s public images – and then lied about it (view story).

Last but not least, Mayor Barbara Hanna has enjoyed at least one huge party thrown for her by managing members of the Cultural Alliance at the Banning White House. Mayor Barbara Hanna never misses an opportunity to “pump” the benefits of the Cultural Alliance, even if it means making up complete lies ( see this story here ). Her friends at the Cultural Alliance can rest assured that they will not be held to the letter of the law: Hanna will give her cronies a free ride – each and every time !



The Cultural Alliance’ default on the lease of 130 San Gorgonio raises serious questions about a conspiracy between  the organization and members of City Council , in particular Mayor Barbara Hanna,  Don Robinson and Bob Botts. Was there ever an intention to collect lease payments from the Banning Cultural Alliance?

The complete lack of enforcement action by the City seems to suggest that we are looking at a “sham” contract, intended to appease the public, but never meant to be enforced. Let’s keep in mind that the Banning Cultural Alliance had use of this City owned building ( rent free and without a lease ) during 2008 – a situation that raised a lot of eyebrows when it was first exposed by the Banning Informer in late 2009 ( full story) . At the time,  the City was clearly under public pressure to produce a “lease” document, in order to give the appearance of an “arms length transaction” – so everything would appear “legit” in the public’s eyes.



City manager Takata : under orders from Mayor Barbara Hanna not to enforce ?

Lack of any enforcement action by the City manager Andrew Takata is nothing new. He allowed the (now closed) Haven Coffee House to operate without proper permits and without a business license, ( see previous story). He does the same for other “Hanna protected” businesses like the Banning White House. The Cultural Alliance lease is just more of the same. In order to save his job, does Takata take orders from Banning’s corrupt Mayor Barbara Hanna – no questions asked ? You decide.



If you were a landlord, could you afford for your tenant to not pay you rent for 6 months ? Well, despite a severe budget crisis,  Mayor Barbara Hanna and the rest of the Banning City Council seem to see no problem with this  – using your tax dollars, of course !  Draw your own conclusions.


In the meantime, Banning’s decline into total corruption continues ….