"We're going through some trying times, as you can see," Mayor Rita Vogler said Wednesday afternoon.


To her left sat a councilman still mourning the death of his son.


To her right was a seat left vacant by a councilman indicted on charges of misappropriation of public funds, grand theft, filing false tax returns and failure to file a tax return.


Councilman Thurston "Smitty" Smith attended Wednesday's Hesperia City Council meeting just days after burying his son Brandon, who had died in a motorcycle accident five days before.


Councilman Tad Honeycutt had posted his $500,000 bail and been released from West Valley Detention Center hours before Wednesday's council meeting, having been arrested Tuesday morning on charges stemming from an investigation into alleged misappropriation of $5.5 million in taxpayer funds by officials of California Charter Academy and its for-profit spin-off companies.


"I know everyone is calling us about our councilman under indictment," Vogler said, during public comments at the council meeting. "We believe in the law of our government and we are waiting for the wheels of justice to keep on rolling. It is an open investigation and therefore, we have no comment."


Although under an indictment, Honeycutt legally can continue to serve as a Hesperia city councilman; it is only when and if he is convicted that he would have to step down. Adelanto Mayor Jim Nehmens and his wife were arrested in April on three charges of grand theft by embezzlement, and Nehmens remains in office pending the resolution of his case.


In Honeycutt were convicted, or if he were to voluntarily relinquish his seat, the Hesperia City Council will have the option of calling a special election, appointing a replacement or simply leaving the seat vacant until the November 2008 election, when his seat would be up for reelection in the normal course of affairs. Even prior to Tuesday's indictments, the two-term councilman had not been expected to run for reelection next year.


In the past 24 hours, the city of Hesperia had become front-page news in the Los Angeles Times, and an Associated Press story about the arrest of Honeycutt and CCA founder Steven Cox had appeared in newspapers as far away as New York State. It was not the kind of attention city officials wanted for Hesperia, they said.


"This is a very strong community," said Councilman Ed Pack, a political ally of Honeycutt's on most votes. "And we will prevail."


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.