In La Habra Heights, llama poop leads to civic enragement

La Habra Heights, LlamasIn La Habra Heights, llama poop leads to civic enragement : A couple s llama fertilizer sets off years of controversy, including yelling matches and thousands of records requests.

The problems in La Habra Heights started with llama poop.

Phil and Aida Lough were so convinced their eco-friendly fertilizer — Llama Brew — was their ticket to success that they tried to entice investors on ABC’s reality show, “The Shark Tank.”

The investors weren’t impressed and neither were La Habra Heights city officials, who sued the Loughs, saying that their animals and huge, open drums of animal waste at their home were a stinky, unsanitary mess. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge agreed and ordered the Loughs to stop producing Llama Brew.

FOR THE RECORD:
La Habra Heights: An article in the Feb. 2 California section about ongoing disputes between residents and the city of La Habra Heights said that George Edwards has gotten into physical fights with residents at council meetings. Altercations involving Edwards have occurred at a public vote-counting at City Hall and at a meeting of the La Habra Heights Improvement Assn. —


The case set off years of controversy that officials say has nearly paralyzed the small town’s government.

The Loughs and a handful of local gadflies with their own agendas have filed thousands of public records requests, so many that the city had to hire additional staff to fulfill them.

City Hall limited its public hours in January because the nine full-time employees were overwhelmed by daily visits from the group. The city’s finance manager quit, saying she couldn’t take the stress. The city attorney announced her resignation in December.

City Council meetings devolve into yelling matches and sometimes drag on for hours.

“Everybody take a deep breath in, a deep breath out,” Mayor Roy Francis said as he called a recent meeting to order. “I’m asking the people that speak today to keep it civil, to keep the names out of it.”

During another recent meeting, one man looked at another man and grinned.

“What brings you down?” he asked. “Bad government?”

“No. There’s nothing good on TV.”

::

All the hubbub is a huge departure for a town known for its quiet locale and sprawling lots.

With a population of about 5,300, the wealthy hillside community on the Los Angeles County and Orange County border prides itself on its avocados and rural nature. Its winding roads have few streetlights and no sidewalks, and its only businesses are a private golf course and a small real estate office. One resident in its only park called it “just a bunch of mansions on a hill.”

Angry about the city’s meddling in his home and business, Lough unsuccessfully ran for City Council in 2011, saying he was fighting to uphold La Habra Heights’ motto of “Rural Living.” A self-described watchdog, he has accused the city of threatening residents, awarding contracts to friends and stifling public comment.

In November, the council limited public speaking time at meetings because the Loughs and two friends, George Edwards and Stephen Blagden — authors of local opinion blogs — spoke so often that annoyed members of the public stopped attending meetings, council members claim. The group responded by coming to a meeting dressed in black to protest the “death of free speech.”

City officials, Lough said in an email, blame him and his wife “for every ill in this city, and also the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, too.”

The Loughs’ latest allegation is that La Habra Heights failed to provide details for hundreds of checks and did not account for at least $500,000. At one meeting, Aida Lough said the money is being funneled into a “secret bank account.”

“This is government gone wild,” said Phil Lough, a former high school economics teacher.

No checks or money were missing, City Manager Shauna Clark said. But an accounting technician — who was later fired — failed to list unused or voided checks in monthly warrant registers, according to city officials and documents.

The city also has created a section on its website called “The FACTS” to publicly dispute claims by the Loughs and a few other residents.

The Loughs, Edwards and Blagden have filed numerous complaints about the city with the district attorney’s office.

The D.A.’s office did recently chastise La Habra Heights’ Planning Commission and City Council for violating the state’s open meeting laws. The council “unlawfully engaged in serial communications” away from public meetings to approve security cameras outside City Hall and the creation of the FACTS site, according to letters from prosecutors.

But the D.A. has taken no action against the city over the missing checks, city officials said. Head Deputy Dist. Atty. Anne Ingalls — deviating from a general policy of keeping complaints and their statuses confidential —said in a letter to city officials that it found no proof of missing checks or a secret bank account.

Aida Lough said in an email that the investigation “was a sham” and that they will take their complaints to state officials.

All the accusations have La Habra Heights’ tiny city staff feeling under siege, Clark said.

The small group of gadflies visits City Hall nearly every day. They bring cameras, snapping pictures and posting them online. Clark said she and other officials can’t even go to the restroom during public meetings without being followed.

And it seems as if the accusations never stop, Clark said. She’s been accused of putting a rat in the Loughs’ mailbox and abusing their children.

Edwards has gotten into physical fights with residents at council meetings and sued the city over its renovation of City Hall. Blagden regularly reports the city to the district attorney.

Then there are the public records requests. From January 2011 through Nov. 30, the city received 2,110 requests. More than half have come from the Loughs, Clark said. The city has spent more than $468,000 in staff time and expenses pulling 26,000 pages of documents, Clark said.

The city’s finance manager, Rochelle Clayton, was one of the handful of employees who spent hours a day retrieving documents from a small metal storage shed behind City Hall. Each request could require a search of hundreds of documents.

Clayton said she worked weekends to try to catch up — but never could. Finally, in October, Clayton said she couldn’t take it anymore. She resigned, claiming “out-and-out harassment” from citizens bent on stopping the city government.

“In my 20 years in government finance and accounting … I’ve never experienced the level of bashing that I’ve received in this city,” she said. “We can’t do our jobs.”

In an effort at transparency, the council voted in 2012 to put city records online and hired a deputy clerk to index and upload documents — but she hasn’t done so yet because 90% of her time is spent filling records requests, officials said.

City Councilman Kyle Miller, a 15-year resident, said that when he was elected last year, he thought he could help end the polarization. Instead, he is accused at nearly every meeting of criminal behavior and backroom deals.

“When you have efforts like this where they’re initiating investigations based on unsubstantiated claims and you pair that with voluminous public records requests … that leads to massive distraction and the inability to function day to day as a city,” he said.

Now, city officials fear the controversy — and the very public bashing — is starting to hamstring their ability to recruit a replacement for Clayton.

The city has spent more than $1,400 to advertise the finance manager position, but numerous applicants have been dissuaded, Clark said, after seeing online comments from city detractors and watching meetings. Because of this, the council in November approved $25,000 to hire a recruiting firm for the position.

The city is even subjected to mocking from a llama.

The Loughs’ Llama Brew business mascot, Eden the Llama, frequently takes to Twitter to show her disdain for La Habra Heights.

“My cat friend is apply’g 4 the Fin. Mgr. job. He can do a great job,” the llama tweeted

2015 Whittier Daily News Player of the Year: La Habra’s Eric Barriere

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Eric Barriere, La Habra, Senior

Eric Barriere walked on to La Habra High School four years ago as a virtual unknown.

He will leave arguably as one of the top players in the football team’s history.

Barriere, after leading the Highlanders to the program’s seventh divisional title is the Whittier Daily News Football Player of the Year.

“It makes me happy that people feel that way about me,” Barriere said of his legacy. “There have been a lot of great players in this program. I’m really honored to be compared to them.”

It was well-deserved this season. The senior earned Freeway player of the year honors after helping the Highlanders to a 13-2 record and the division title. He accounted for 4,000 yards and 58 touchdowns, including throwing for 3,077 and 46 scores.

Whittier Daily News Football Player of the Year Eric Barriere, of La Habra High, at the La Habra campus on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015

Whittier Daily News Football Player of the Year Eric Barriere, of La Habra High, at the La Habra campus on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015

Barriere’s biggest contribution came when it was unexpected. He not only saved his biggest performances during the biggest games, but at the biggest moments. None bigger than in the Southwest title game when he led La Habra to a 39-36 win over San Clemente.

The Highlanders quest to win the program’s seventh section title looked bleak after they gave up the lead to San Clemente with 20 seconds to play. But Barriere, who earlier in the season beat Los Alamitos with a Hail Mary throw, had one more up his sleeve, tossing 27 yards to Prince Ross to beat the Tritons.

“When he started making those plays (as a sophomore), you start thinking this is something (special),” La Habra coach Frank Mazzotta said. “From there, plays kept coming and kept coming, and obviously cultivating this year with his play leading us to the championship.

“The average kid is getting sacked, and he’s breaking them for first downs or touchdowns. It’s crazy.”

Barriere, who has received an offer from Eastern Washington, completed his high school career by throwing for 414 yards and accounting for three touchdowns in a 63-49 loss to Camarillo in the regional playoffs.

“It was a really great year,” Barriere said. “It was great for the program to win CIF for the first time in five years. All offseason and season it was our goal to win a championship and we did that.”

 

Source: Whittier Daily News

NORWALK – They had a prayer answered back in mid-September when faced with a similar situation.

With five seconds left on the clock and a quarterback capable of doing just about anything with the ball in his hand, the La Habra sideline knew it still had a flicker of hope on the final play from scrimmage Friday night in the CIF-SS Southwest Division championship game.

After avoiding San Clemente’s initial rush, scrambling to his right to extend the play, Eric Barriere heaved a 27-yard pass into the back corner of the end zone where a diving Prince Ross made the catch of a lifetime, inciting a celebration no Highlander will forget in La Habra’s stunning 39-36 win over the Tritons on the final play from scrimmage at Cerritos College.

“It’s ironic because we said the team that had the ball last would probably win, but I didn’t realize it would be the team who had the ball with 20 seconds on the clock,” said Highlanders coach Frank Mazzotta, amidst a sea of blue. “With the ball in Eric’s hand, we’ve got a chance. We tried to get the ball in his hands a lot tonight.”

Barriere was nothing short of brilliant in capturing the school’s seventh CIF championship, and its first since 2010. The senior completed 15 of 16 passes for 293 yards and four touchdowns. He also carried the ball 12 times for 98 yards, scoring on a dazzling 38-yard run on which he hurdled a would-be tackler, before splitting two more defenders en route to the end zone.

Ross and Amon Fellows were the only two La Habra receivers to catch passes Friday night. Fellows had eight receptions for 142 yards and a score, and Ross had seven catches for 151 yards and three scores, none bigger or more clutch than the 27-yarder with no time left on the clock.

“I ran through the safeties, Eric was scrambling to his right and he saw me, I was jumping,” Ross explained. “He threw it and I knew I had to get to it. This it it. We have no time left. So I dove and I got both of my legs in.”

La Habra (13-1), which won its seventh CIF-SS title since 2002, jumped out to a 33-21 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run from CJ Taylor (147 yards).

San Clemente (11-3) cut the deficit to four points on the ensuing possession, with quarterback Jack Sears bulldozing his way 27 yards for the score, and then converting the two-point conversion.

With 3:07 left on the clock and the Highlanders driving into the Triton red zone, Mazzotta elected to go for a fourth-and-6 from the 16-yard line. Barriere’s lone incompletion of the night gave San Clemente the ball with plenty of time on the clock.

An 11-play, 84-yard touchdown drive ended with Sears’ 4-yard strike to Brandon Reaves, putting San Clemente ahead, 36-33, with 20 seconds remaining.

“When I saw the score, I kind of felt down, but I knew we had a shot,” Barriere said. “I knew our team was capable of scoring again. We got a big return from Eric Lancaster-Garcia, plus the flag.”

Lancaster-Garcia returned the ensuing kickoff to the 45-yard line, with a personal foul penalty giving the Highlanders possession at San Clemente’s 41 with 10 seconds to play.

Barriere hit Fellows with a quick 14-yard pass on the sideline, setting up a play every Highlander will remember for the rest of their lives.

“It was a tough loss and words can’t heal what happened tonight,” San Clemente coach Jaime Ortiz said. “But 10, 15 years from now, these guys can look back and say they had a great career here at San Clemente High School. Back-to-back CIF finals, and they put San Clemente back on the map.”

La Habra wins CIF-SS football title on Hail Mary finish

La Habra High School’s quest for its seventh CIF Southern Section title looked over. Done. Kaput.

But nothing is over when Eric Barriere is your quarterback. He proved it earlier in a final-second win over Los Alamitos and did it again Friday, tossing 27 yards to Prince Ross to give the Highlanders an unbelievable 39-36 victory over San Clemente to win the Southwest Division title at Cerritos College.

Barriere accounted for 386 yards and five touchdowns for La Habra, which improved to 13-1 and earned a spot in next week’s CIF State Regional bowl games. San Clemente, getting 252 yards and three touchdowns from Jack Sears, finished 11-3.

“It was like the win over Los Alamitos,” Barriere said. “I had to buy time. I just threw it up and another mircacle happened, and (Ross) caught it. And we won the championship.”

VIDEO: Highlights form La Habra’s 39-36 win

La Habra’s chances looked dead late after Sears guided the Tritons 86 yards and gave them a 36-33 lead with a 4-yard pass to Brandon Reaves with 20 seconds left.

La Habra then returned the kick to its 44 and got the ball at San Clemente’s 41 after a 15-yard penalty. Barriere completed a pass to the 27 before he rolled right with five seconds left. He then lofted a pass toward the northeast corner and Ross made a diving catch to win it.

“The last play; it was amazing,” Ross said. “Eric had to find me. Eric rolled out, he threw the ball and I caught it.

“There’s nothing better than to win the championship like this. It was amazing.”

La Habra looked to have the game secure early in the fourth quarter.

The Highlanders, after giving up a 79-yard drive to San Clemente for a 21-14 deficit, countered with back-to-back scoring plays by Barriere. The senior tossed 84 yards to Ross on a catch and run before Barriere ran 38 yards for a 27-21 lead.

CJ Taylor, who rushed for 148 yards, made it 33-21 with 11:54 left.

Sears followed with a 27-yard run to make it 33-29 with 8:54 to play before throwing the 4-yard pass to Reaves with 20 seconds left.

Barriere then followed with his heroics.

“We have belief in ourselves,” Barriere said. “Once they scored, we said we can still score. Our team believed we could still score and we end up scoring. I just want to thank God for blessing us with another victory. It’s amazing.”

The game was tied at 14 at halftime.

San Clemente forced a fumble inside its 10 late in the second quarter, then drove 91 yards to tie with three seconds left in the half.

The big play was an 27-yard option pass from Keith Jones to Eldridge at the La Habra 26. Sears followed with a scramble to the 8 before throwing 2 yards to Eldridge to tie it at 14.

La Habra was looking good early, scoring on its first two drives. The Highlanders, who had 210 yards in the first half, opened the game with a 71-yard drive and took a 7-0 lead on 30-yard pass from Barriere to Amon Fellows at 8:32 of the first quarter.

Barriere, after San Clemente tied it at 7, drove La Habra 80 yards gave the Highlanders a 14-7 lead with a 9-yard pass to Ross at 11:15 of the second. He set it up with a 16-yard pass to Fellows at the Tritons’ 11 on a fourth and 10.

San Clemente, after La Habra took its early lead, scored its first touchdown on an 80-yard drive. Brandon Reaves, who rushed for 50 yards in the first half, capped it with a 1-yard run.

 

Heroic Highlanders, CIF Champions

La Habra Football 2015, CIF ChampionsBy: Jason Burch

Another miraculous catch on the final play lifts La Habra over San Clemente 39-36 to win CIF title for the seventh time in school history on Friday night at Cerritos College.

The Tritons scored a go ahead touchdown to make it 36-33 with just 20 seconds left on the clock, forcing the Highlanders to call upon quarterback Eric Barriere to pullout another improbable finish.

With the CIF Championship hanging in the balance, “EB3” used his uncanny improvisation skills to elude the pass rush, allowing Prince Ross enough time to get open in the corner of the end zone where Barriere threaded the needle between a cluster of red and white jerseys for the title-winning touchdown as time expired.

“Oh my lord that kid is something,” head coach Frank Mazzotta said of his quarterback.

Ross said that he knew Barriere was going to make the play and was just trying to get open for him.

“I knew Eric could do it, he is amazing,” Ross said. “For him to throw that ball and trust me was great.”

After giving up the lead with just seconds to play, prospects looked grim for La Habra. However, drawing upon their experience with a similar last second victory over Los Alamitos early this season, the Highlanders believed they could make it happen.

Eric Lancaster-Garcia, who had the game-winning grab against the Griffins in week four, returned the ensuing kickoff to the 45-yard-line and a personal foul on San Clemente moved the ball to the Triton 40.

With time for two plays, Barrier quickly hit Ross on an out for 13 yards to stop the clock and setup the final play— the 27-yard touchdown from Barriere to Ross.

“This is my first ever championship, it’s a great feeling to win it like this,” Barriere said.

Earlier, the Triton defense came up with a big stop with just over three minutes to play, when they deflected Barriere’s pass into the end zone on fourth down, falling incomplete.

San Clemente took possession at the 16-yard-line with 3:01 to play and quarterback Jack Sears led them on an 84-yard go-ahead scoring drive.

The first half ended with the score knotted at 14-14.

Both offenses moved the ball with ease for the majority of the game. The only punts in the game for either side came in the third quarter when the Highlander defense forced the Tritons to punt on back-to-back series.

Barriere played a near-flawless game, completing 16-17 passes for 314 yards and four touchdowns, adding 93 yards and one touchdown on the ground.

Ross had a big second half with 128 yards and two touchdowns, including an 84-yard catch and run that tied the game 21-21. He finished with 174 yards and three scores.

Amon Fellows was Barriere’s go-to receiver in the first half, racking up 101 of his 140 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown on the opening drive.

The Highanders turned to running back C.J. Taylor to carry the load in the second half. After a slow start and an early fumble, Taylor began to wear down the Triton defense late, gaining chunks of yards with his patient and churning running style. Taylor gained 101 yards in the second half, and 139 total yards with one score.

The Tritons much like they had all season, relied heavily on the three-pronged rushing attack of Vlad Dzhabiev, Brandon Reaves and quarterback Jack Sears. The trio combined for 319 yards. Reaves added two touchdowns, while Sears and Dzhabiev each scored one.

Sears carried the offense down the stretch, with 103 of his 124 rushing yards coming in the second half. The junior quarterback went 11-16 for 125 yards passing with two scores.

The Tritons (11-3) final game was a heartbreaker, but the team promises to be strong again next season with Sears returning for his senior season. Head coach Jaime Garcia commended his quarterback’s will to win and was proud of the way his team battled.

“It’s a tough loss and words can’t heal what happened here tonight, but 10-15 years from now these kids can say they had a great career here,” Tritons head coach Jaime Garcia said.

The Highlanders (13-1) captured the school’s seventh CIF Championship with the win. Mazzotta said tonight was definitely the most dramatic one yet. La Habra will move on to a regional championship game against Camarillo (14-0) next week.

Source: La Habra Journal

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