“Banning Cultural Alliance” – a Cancer on the Community

“Banning Cultural Alliance” –  a Cancer on the Community


4/26/12 – In any corrupt City, conveniently there is always a “charity” at hand which receives millions in City funding. In the City of Bell it was the “Steelworkers Oldtimers Foundation”, run by former Bell Mayor George Cole , that received over $ 2.6 in cash while providing no benefit to Bell’s citizens.

Likewise, in Banning it is the “Banning Cultural Alliance”, founded by former Mayor Bob Botts and given its initial public funding by former Mayor Art Welch, that takes on an almost identical role : over the last 5 years the Cultural Alliance has received about $ 1.3 million in City funding – and also has nothing of value to show for in return. Most of the money remains unaccounted for and most if not all of the Alliance’ assignments have been total failures.

Today, with the City being out of money and despite the Riverside Grand Jury asking the Council to “cease and desist” doing business with Cultural Alliance (view report),  City Council support continues unabated: The latest financial shenanigans benefiting the Cultural Alliance include the City’s failure to  collect over $ 32,000 in past due rent from the Cultural Alliance and committing even more taxpayer funding .



City owned building on 130 N. San Gorgonio Ave.

Since 2009, the Banning Cultural Alliance has rented a building from the City, located on 130 N. San Gorgonio  Ave. (This building is NOT the Cultural Alliance Headquarters, but an additional building). It is used as an Art Gallery and was bought by the City in 2008 for a steep $ 450,000 – with the premise that the Cultural Alliance would be the tenant. For over a year after the purchase, both the City and the Alliance avoided entering into a lease agreement, with the result that the Alliance was able to stay in there for free.

Giving in to public pressure, in August of 2009, a lease was finally executed (view lease). It provided, first and foremost, that the Alliance could stay in the building for yet another year without paying rent. This makes for a full 2 year free ride.

Beginning September 1 of 2010, the Cultural Alliance agreed to pay rent , as provided in Exhibit “C” of the lease, in the amount of  $ 1,500 / month. For year two, the rent goes up to $ 1,850 / month. The lease also provides that if any of these lease payments are 10 or more days late,  late charges of 5 % shall apply ( Section 4.03 ).

Despite receiving $ 1.3 million from the City, the Banning Cultural Alliance defaults on rent payments

According to a Public Record Request responded to on April 9, 2012, the City of Banning has not received a single rent payment from the Banning Cultural Alliance for almost two years.

This means, that the Banning Cultural Alliance owes the taxpayer $ 16,500 for the first year, and including April  2012, so far $ 14,800 for the second year = $ 31,300 to date. Add to that an applicable 5 % late charge @ $ 1,565.00 :

The total amount in rent owed by the Banning Cultural Alliance owed to the City of Banning (taxpayer) today is $ 32,865.00.

While the Cultural Alliance fails to pay rent to the City, they are busy collecting rent from the building’s subtenant(s) : for 2009 the Cultural Alliance admits to pocketing $ 11,010.00 in “apartment rent” (see their 2009 IRS filing, pg.1).

To this day, not a single City Council Member has asked a question about the $ 32,000+  in missing rent payments due from the Cultural Alliance. So much for good stewardship of taxpayer funds by our City Council.



In Bed with the Cultural Alliance : Mayor Don Robinson, Council members Barbara Hanna, Bob Botts (L-R)

Presumably because of political pressure applied by Don Robinson , Barbara Hanna and Bob Botts, the City has been taking no action on collecting rent, let alone evicting the Cultural Alliance. Even with the City out of money, City manager Andrew Takata and the City Council chose to protect the Alliance from collection and eviction.

It appears City manager Andrew Takata repeatedly engages in “selective enforcement”,

(see also the Banning White House and Haven Coffee House incidents). It was also Takata, along with the City Council, who decided to ignore the Grand Jury’s findings calling for the return of $ 162,000 + interest from the Cultural Alliance. The Alliance never paid that money back. How is all this different from how Robert Rizzo ran the City of Bell ?

Does City manager Andrew Takata (L) take after his colleague from Bell, Robert Rizzo (R) ?

Once again, this latest scandal makes it clear that the Cultural Alliance and the majority of the City Council are in bed together. Dirty dealings like this one go to show how deep rooted Banning’s corruption really is. What better way to take advantage of the taxpaying public than to avoid collecting a debt ?



Because of past abuses and breaches of contract exposed by the Riverside Grand Jury, the Banning Cultural Alliance has become one of the most controversial “charities” in the Pass Area. Public financial support has diminished to a point where it is more or less nonexistent (see filing). Now the organization solely clutches itself to government support for its funding.

Even with the Alliance now owing over $ 32,000 in back rent and with the City being out of money, Banning City council members Mayor Don Robinson, Barbara Hanna and Bob Botts continue to bend over backwards to give even more financial support to the Cultural Alliance : On February 28, 2012 the Council committed to give the Alliance “in kind contributions” valued at $ 12,000 – mainly in form of public (police) services for pathetic events like the Art Hop  (view our report) or the Phineas festival.

Double Standard ? - Even John Machisic and Debbie Franklin support the idea of Federal tax dollars going to the Cultural Alliance

All it took for this to happen was for Cultural Alliance president Don Smith to ask the Council for the $ 12,000. In response the Council immediately modified their resolution to include the funding. Instead of restoring basic public services – City Hall remains open just 4 days a week –    Don Robinson, Barbara Hanna and Bob Botts rather give away much needed funds to their cronies at the Banning Cultural Alliance.

Debbie Franklin and John Machisic voted against the measure, but they encouraged the Cultural Alliance to seek public “grants”, for example from the (highly controversial) “National Endowment for the Arts”, a Federal Agency solely funded by the taxpayer.

ONLY IN BANNING : Don Robinson - a fake Navy Seal turns MAYOR !

Why do Franklin and Machisic support for Federal tax dollars to go to the unaccountable Cultural Alliance ?

After what we know about the Banning Cultural Alliance, wouldn’t it be reasonable that NO public funds of any source were awarded to them ? While often critical of the Cultural Alliance, even Franklin and Machisic don’t seem to “get” the problem 100%.



During the same session, Mayor Don Robinson praised the Alliance for doing a “Good Job”. What was he referring to ? A good “con-job” on dodging over $ 32,000 in rent payments ? Or maybe a good job of hiding the whereabouts of $ 1.3 million dollars in taxpayer cash ?

This is the kind of pathetic cheerleading one would expect from a Banning politician, in particular one like Don Robinson, who has previously been exposed as a military imposter, when he falsely claimed to be a Navy Seal (view this very revealing article).

Or could it simply be that Don Robinson is suffering from memory loss ?  Does he not recall that the Banning Cultural Alliance has to pay rent on 130 N. San Gorgonio ? Maybe so. After all, according to his own sworn testimony, Robinson cannot remember if he was expelled from high school – or not ( source : Robinson deposition, pg. 13 ).

What does this say about Banning’s Mayor Don Robinson ?



The Cultural Alliance’ lavish headquarters on 175 West Hays Street were remodeled using taxpayer funds, via a $ 100,000 City “Façade Grant “ and also with help of hopelessly out-of-touch Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley.

Lavish Cultural Alliance Headquarters on Hays Street - click on image to enlarge


The Hays property resembles a luxurious gated estate : it features video surveillance and decorative art objects all over its gated, fenced grounds. With many Banning citizen living in poverty and out of work, the Banning Cultural Alliance can afford to indulge in luxury at taxpayers expense.





Why do corrupt politicians love to fund unaccountable charities, like the Banning Cultural Alliance ? The answer is simple : the money conveniently disappears in a “black hole”, with no comprehensible accounting ever being produced.

Lax IRS filing requirements make it very difficult, if not impossible, for the public to trace funds distributed by charities. For example, while we know that “consultants” were main recipients of  Alliance funds in past years (audit report), the identity of these consultants remains undisclosed.  In this context, is it really just a coincidence that Council member Barbara Hanna continues to operate her seemingly lucrative consulting business, Hanna & Associates, while refusing to identify her clients, (view Hanna’s latest filing) ?

Why should the government fund charities at all ? After all, they are already subsidized by being tax exempt. So why subsidize them even more ? Shouldn’t contributions to charities be a personal choice of individual contributors rather than a mandated collective (government) effort ?



There can be no doubt that Banning has contracted a malignant cancer, evidenced by its relationship with the Banning Cultural Alliance. Is it a cancer so potent, that not even a Grand Jury could eradicate it ?

Clearly, this cancer continues to metastasize into even deeper corruption, as it now drains the community for its last remaining dollars, cheats taxpayers out of their rental income while enjoying immunity –  all courtesy of a corrupt City Council majority, namely, Don Robinson,  Barbara Hanna and Bob Botts. How much longer will the public tolerate these abuses ?


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