Beleaguered San Dimas Mayor Resigns

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San Dimas Mayor Terry Dipple--whose two decades on the City Council made him the San Gabriel Valley's voice on regional issues--has resigned from office a month after pleading no contest on forgery charges for taking money from his community's Meals on Wheels program.

Dipple, 42, who also serves as president of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, will leave office Friday. Earlier, he had announced that he would not seek reelection but that he intended to complete his fourth term as mayor in 1997.

"I would hope the citizens of San Dimas would judge me by my 20 years of dedicated and loyal service and not by 20 minutes of poor judgment," Dipple told City Council members Tuesday night.

Dipple's change of heart came amid mounting demands from the community for his resignation since Dec. 7, when he pleaded no contest to forging signatures on local chapter of the Meals on Wheels bank-withdrawal slips.

The demise of Dipple, who many believed was destined for bigger things in Sacramento or Washington, began at the last council session when Mayor Pro Tem F.D. "Sandy" McHenry publicly called for his resignation.

Dipple, a consultant for a Newport Beach-based finance firm that advises local governments, said the criticism was affecting his family.

"He told me he resigned for his five kids. He thought it was unfair on them to stay on," said Denis Bertone, a council colleague. "He was on top of the world, one of the most prominent mayors in the region, a future Republican congressman and now he is on the bottom."

Dipple did not return numerous phone calls Wednesday seeking comment. But earlier he apologized to the 32,400 residents of San Dimas.

"I recognize that I made a mistake, that I violated the law, and I don't expect everyone in the community to be as understanding and supportive as my friends and family have been," he said earlier.

Dipple's problems with Meals on Wheels came after he signed his name to a pair of Meals on Wheels bank statements and forged the signature of the group's treasurer--allowing him to transfer $4,745 into a checking account.

He then took $1,500 from the checking account, according to authorities. Dipple pleaded no contest to misdemeanor forgery after the April 20, 1994, transaction came to light in a Glendora Police Department probe.

Dipple, a founder of the social service organization, has said he borrowed the money from the account to cover a check he personally made to a Meals on Wheels vendor. That check was never cleared. Dipple returned the $1,500 and an additional $500 to the account five months after the withdrawal.

The case scandalized San Dimas, a quiet bedroom community located about 25 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. In the past, the city has best been known for its Raging Waters amusement park and as being the fictional setting of the comedy movie "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure."

Before Dipple resigned, one local newspaper columnist suggested that the only people who would believe his story were San Dimas' movie characters, Bill and Ted--low-IQ surfers in the film. "If residents buy the mayor's explanation, maybe Hollywood's onto something in its depiction of San Dimas as a breeding ground for dolts," columnist Chris Reed wrote in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

Dipple's resignation drew a mixed response Wednesday.

"I like Terry very much and think he's done a lot for the community," said Judy Hammond, who has lived there 16 years and has known Dipple since he was a college student making his first run at public office. Hammond, public affairs director for Los Angeles County, said: "I was certainly not one of those urging him to resign. This will be a loss to the city."

She said Dipple was a familiar figure at the weekly farmers market, where he sat at a table and listened to residents' concerns.

Others believe Dipple did the right thing by quitting.

"I think he did what he thought was best for the city and himself," said Councilman Curt Morris. "It's a very sad end to two decades of public service."

But many politicians in the sprawling San Gabriel Valley viewed Dipple's demise with amazement. "I was disappointed and shocked," said Beatrice La Pisto Kirtley, who will take over as president of the Valley Council of Governments. "Terry has done a wonderful job for the valley," she said.

Covina Mayor Thomas O'Leary said he admires Dipple's efforts for the region but given the charge that he stole from the elderly and housebound, his resignation was inevitable.

"Terry," said O'Leary, "was considered the prince in waiting."

Times staff writer Bob Pool contributed to the story.

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