(Updated Thursday, September 20, 2007 at 2:03 p.m.)

Councilman Tad Honeycutt appeared at a Hesperia City Council meeting for the first time since he was indicted by the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office, and was promptly asked to leave by three of his fellow members.
Honeycutt was indicted on September 4 and charged with 15 counts of Misappropriation of Public Funds, 15 counts of Grand Theft, three counts of failure to file a state tax return and a single count filing a false tax return. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

The charges stem from an investigation into the operation of California Charter Academy, once the state's largest chain of charter schools, which shut down in 2004. CCA founder C. Steven Cox was also indicted and faces up to 64 years in prison.

Although he was free on $500,000 bail at the time, Honeycutt missed the September 5 meeting of the Hesperia City Council. Wednesday night, though, fellow council members got their first chance to directly address their colleague in the wake of his indictment.

"Mr. Honeycutt, I honestly believe that your continued presence on the city council is not in the best interest of this community," Councilman Thurston "Smitty" Smith said during the council members' comments portion of the meeting, reading from a prepared statement, "And will, in fact, interfere with the planned progress of our city. You have served for more than one term. It is now time for you to step down and make way for a new direction."

"I would have to second Councilman Smith's letter on Councilman Honeycutt's resignation," Mayor Pro Tem Mike Leonard agreed.

But Honeycutt, who had announced his intention to stay on in office at a September 14 court appearance, was not budging.

"I'm not as arrogant to think it's better for the community if I'm here," Honeycutt said. "I think there's plenty of people that could serve in my spot, in a much better way than I serve. But I do have a responsibility to the people that did elect me, that do support me, and I have done nothing wrong and I intend to clear my name. But I won't be resigning."

"I formally request that you reconsider your decision," Mayor Rita Vogler said. "Your challenges are our challenges and what's happening to you affects all of us.

"It's not that I believe that resigning is an admission of guilt. I don't believe that one bit."

Honeycutt, a two-term councilman and former mayor, is up for reelection in 2008. Even prior to the indictments, he had not been expected to run for a third term in office.

Although under an indictment, Honeycutt can legally continue to serve as a 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.

The next meeting of the Hesperia City Council will held on October 3 at 6:30 p.m. at Hesperia City Hall.

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