Hesperia City Councilman Tad Honeycutt was arrested Tuesday morning, on charges connected to his role in the California Charter Academy investigation.


The exact charges he faces were being held pending a 2 p.m. press conference held by the San Bernardino County District Attorney's office, when District Attorney Michael A. Ramos will "announce indictments resulting from the California Charter Academy investigation," according to a press release from Ramos' office.


Once the largest chain of charter schools in California, the California Charter Academy closed its doors in August 2004, leaving thousands of school children without a classroom on the eve of the 2004-2005 school year. Founded in 1999, CCA was once a string of 60 campuses serving 4,500 students.


In an audit report commissioned by the California Department of Education and released in April 2005, Honeycutt was mentioned 38 times in the 107-page document, second only to California Charter Academy founder C. Steven Cox. The audit report accused CCA officials, and officials in spin-off operations, like the for-profit subsidiary Everything For Schools, headed up by Honeycutt, of misusing $23 million in taxpayer funds. EFS was specifically alleged to have marked up schoolbooks by 57 percent before reselling them to the CCA schools. The theoretical purpose of setting up the for-profit subsidiaries had been to save CCA schools by enabling them to buy in bulk, something that auditors said didn't happen.


Honeycutt has consistently maintained his innocence.


"I've never ever had any investigator talk to me, other than those auditors," Honeycutt said in 2006. "I've never had any law enforcement agency of any sort talk to me, and I've not known of them talking to anybody."


"Nothing has changed that I know of," he said in July of this year. "The impression that I've gotten, from people I've talked to, is that oftentimes when there's not a real strong case, they'll do something like this ... have a grand jury review the case. ... I'm absolutely sure there's nothing inappropriate that I did."


The councilman has previously said that employees of a private company are free to spend its funds however they wish (including spending $18,000 on two jet skis, more than $20,000 in Disneyland-related charges and $42,639 in personal federal income tax payments) and accused department of education officials of being on a political witch-hunt.


Other High Desert elected officials, including First District Supervisor-turned-County Assessor Bill Postmus, former Hesperia Unified School District school board president Eric Swanson and Victorville City Councilwoman JoAnn Almond were also mentioned in the report.


All of them received subpoenas from the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office's Public Integrity Unit in July and August, as well as current First District Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, and were expected to appear before a grand jury in late August.


If Honeycutt leaves his council seat, there are two options for filling his position: a special election or an appointment.


Elections are expensive even during presidential elections, when the costs of setting up polling stations are shared between national, state and local government. A special election simply to replace Honeycutt would likely have all of its costs borne by the city of Hesperia, and could run into the tens of thousands of dollars. The remaining four council members could also choose to appoint a replacement.


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