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Looking Back to 1940: Grand jury indicts justice of peace and supervisor 

Looking Back Paso Robles

This look back at Paso Robles history comes from local newspapers in the Paso Robles Area Historical Society collection. News for this column is selected with the assistance of the society’s Vice President Nancy Tweedie and Research Director Jan Cannon.

Excerpts from Wednesday, July 3, 1940, Paso Robles Journal:

Defendants blame politics

John Norton, San Luis Obispo county supervisor for supervisorial district No. 3, and Ben Bierer, justice of the peace of Templeton township, were indicted for willful and corrupt misconduct in office through fraudulent use of public funds by San Luis Obispo county grand jury last Thursday, it was revealed Saturday.

According to the grand jury charge, Mr. Norton is accused of inspecting county roads in a county owned and operated truck, and collecting 16 cents per mile for such inspection. Further charges accused him of collecting expense claims for inspection trips he did not make.

Paso Robles history

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Specifically, this part of the accusation says, “That particularly, did he not inspect any of the streets, or roads, mentioned in the claim for the month of May 1940, listed to have been inspected on the 21st, 23rd, 24th and or 28th  of May 1940.”

The accusation against Mr. Bierer days in part that he “failed, refused and neglected to make adequate and correct entries in the docket of said township with relation to criminal cases pending of disposed of in said court; that he has willfully and corruptedly failed to account for and pay into the County Treasury of the County of San Luis Obispo, within the time prescribed by law, moneys paid into said court by defendants adjudged guilty of Violations of the California Vehicle Code.” For instances were named totaling $20.

Members of the grand jury included James I cousins and B.H. Davis of Paso Robles.

Both Mr. Norton and Mr. Bierer have stated that the charges against them are the result of “politics.”

CAA Engineer inspects local airport today

Further activity toward improving the municipal airport transpired Tuesday and Wednesday of this week when H.K. Friedman, CAA engineer of Washington D.C., made an inspection of the local field.

He stated that the CAA was most anxious to install lights at Paso Robles and King City airports and would do so as soon as improvements were made at the Paso Robles airport. Engineer Friedman conferred with city officials Tuesday night and today (Wednesday) inspected the field with city officials.

Arrangements were completed today for removal of trees which were deemed dangerous to landing operations, but which were not situated on the airport proper.

A committee consisting of Paul Turner, chamber of commerce president, A.F. Trussler and W.V. Gaham met with District Attorney A.H. Brazil and the county board of supervisors Friday to further their request for funds to improve the airport. Supervisors decided that there were too many legal difficulties in the way of granting such aid and instructed Attorney Brazil to write to the Attorney General for an opinion.

Read previous Looking Back articles

Thank you to sponsors of Looking Back

Paso Robles Pioneer Museum – Come take a real look back into local Paso Robles history. Open Thursday through Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. 2010 Riverside Ave., Paso Robles, CA 93446, (805) 239-4556.

Estrella Warbird Museum is an aviation museum dedicated to the restoration and preservation of military aircraft, vehicles, and memorabilia. Woodland Auto Display is also open. Hours: Thursday through Sunday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.. 4251 Dry Creek Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446,, (805) 227-0440.

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1800 El Pomar is the site of a historic Templeton ranch located just three miles east of town. The property features an iconic, aged redwood barn, 3 story tank house, original farmhouse with an outdoor garden, original water tank structures, and many other original ranch buildings. Set on 20+ acres of vineyards, the 360-degree views of rolling oak-studded hills and surrounding vines are a photographer’s dream. A prime ceremony location exists in the vineyards behind the barn between two beautiful oaks. The northwest-facing location creates plenty of shade for your guests in an early to late afternoon setting. A perfect venue with plenty of open space to customize your wedding or event.

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About the author: Reporter Jackie Iddings

Jackie Iddings is a contributing reporter and photographer for the Paso Robles Daily News.