Big Bear: Neil Derry Fired Don Allen

Don Allen wants to set the record straight. He did not resign his seat on the Big Bear Valley Recreation and Park District advisory commission five months ago.

“I was removed,” said Allen, who represented the community of Moonridge on the board until June 30.

Allen was serving as the commission president at the time of his dismissal by San Bernardino County Third District Supervisor Neil Derry. The commission met with Derry in May to discuss several issues including Big Bear City Park. One month later, Allen received a four-sentence letter dated June 30 advising him that he would no longer be on the commission. Derry stated in the letter that he wished to give others “an opportunity to serve their community and hopefully generate new ideas and perspectives.”

Derry confirmed the reason during a telephone interview with The Grizzly on Nov. 24. “I just felt there was an opportunity to give others in the community to serve,” Derry said. He declined to comment further on why he specifically chose to remove Allen from the seat.

Five members of the commission, including Rudy Macioge, Cassy Benson, Jennifer McCullar, Don Pletcher and Katheryn Poole, will see their terms expire Jan. 31, 2010. Allen’s term was not set to expire until 2012. Gloria Rose Tscharanyan’s term also expires in 2012. “My question is why me and not one of the others?” Allen asked. “Not that I wish any of the other commissioners ill will, it’s just an interesting question.”

Allen believes his removal is a direct result of his vocal opposition to reopening Bear City Park. Derry chose to reopen a portion of Bear City Park while keeping the center section off-limits. The park sits within the runway protection zone at the eastern end of the Big Bear City Airport.

“The commission had been working so hard on getting the airport (district) to purchase the property,” Allen said. “Everybody in the county over the years decided the park was a liability to the county—previous supervisors, risk management.”

While he was against reopening Bear City Park, Allen said he was ready to abide by Derry’s decision. “As a commissioner, I can either abide by the final decision made by the supervisor or resign,” Allen said, adding that he made a similar statement during the commission’s meeting with Derry on the park. He was not going to resign, Allen said. “I have a lot of experience in parks and rec,” Allen said. “We had a lot of things going on that need attention—the Ranch, Paradise Park, the zoo.”

The Moonridge Animal Park in particular is something that interests Allen, who represented the Moonridge community. Allen’s replacement, Bob Ybarra, lives in Sugarloaf.

There is no official policy that dictates commissioners represent certain areas. Under Dennis Hansberger’s administration, commission seats were divided to include the East Valley, Big Bear City, Sugarloaf, Big Bear Lake, Moonridge and Fawnskin. When McCullar was appointed  in 2007 to replace Jerri Boone as the Sugarloaf representative, there was criticism from some Sugarloaf residents that McCullar did not live in Sugarloaf. McCullar resided in Big Bear City near Sugarloaf Park.

“I understand it’s all up to the supervisor,” Allen said about appointments. “In the past they always tried to find somebody from each area. Now there is nobody from Moonridge on the board.”

Derry said under his administration commissioners will serve as at-large representatives. Derry also plans to cut the number of commissioners from seven to five when terms expire in January.

“The big thing to remember in all this is it’s an advisory board, it doesn’t make policy,” Derry said.

Contact reporter Kathy Portie at 909-866-3456, ext. 135, or by e-mail at

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