Wednesday, May 16, 2001

The Old Guard's not-so-sweet charity

From Dissent 58, 5/16/01 Originally entitled: NOT-SO-SWEET CHARITY: Puerta de Escándalo

By Chunk Wheeler [BvT]

Prof Robert Kopfstein called to say "thank you" to all who so generously donated goods, cash and time for the children of La Puerta de Fe orphanage in Baja. It was the most successful fund-raiser ever and the group was able to buy lots of fresh produce, meat and dairy items at the mercado in Tijuana. Dr. Kopfstein and others will be making a special trip to the orphanage on 12/5 to deliver Christmas stockings stuffed with toiletries and other small goodies. —11/19/98

As everyone knows, a while back, the faculty union replaced its infamous “leadership,” thereby thrusting itself headlong into a brave new world of competence and decency. Yes, the Reformers now dominate the Association, and the “Old Guard”—those ruthless schemers who brought us the “Board Majority” (1996), President Raghu P. Mathur (1997), Wagner/Padberg (1998), and even Tom Fuentes (2000)—have faded largely into the background, unionwise.

So gone are the days of quorum-less meetings, homophobic fliers, Neanderthal union board allies, missing bylaws, unexplained political spending, mysterious bank accounts, and illiterate and vituperative union newsletters. Of course, we continue to suffer under the Old Guard’s chief legacy: an odious board (worse than ever, and turning its sights now on a reduction of salaries and benefits) and a clueless/evil administration. But, down at the meeting hall at least, aside from occasional Old Guard moonings and brayings, things are pretty damn quiet.

Our extraordinarily galootinous past is fading from memory.

—OK, OK: the CTA is still pursuing an audit of the Old Guard’s books, so the past lingers. Unfortunately, Sherry and the gang consistently refuse to surrender crucial records to auditors. Plus the Polyestered One won’t let the new leadership or the CTA into some PAC bank accounts. But Lee Haggerty, the current Association president, has no love of controversy: once in a while, he even blathers about the need for “healing” and loveliness. So, mostly, with Lee in charge, the era of internal union discord is over, and, like Van the Man says, the healing has begun.

Sticky residue:

An exception, however, to the absence of sticky Old Guard residue is the Association’s continued support of an orphanage in Baja named “Puerta de Fe.” Over the years (see, e.g., SC Online Newsletter, 11/19/98), and even now, we hear from the likes of Lee “Droopy” Walker or “Baño” Bob Kopfstein, who occasionally trumpet their journeys down south with a fistful of Association dollars. The Reformers inherited this tradition—though, generally, only Old Guard types actually make the trek to Mexico—and, naturally, they have been hesitant to raise any questions about it. Nobody wants to appear to be against helping orphans.

Late in ’99, however, as part of a larger Reform effort to introduce accountability to union operations, members suggested that, really, Kopfstein and the other orphanage regulars oughta secure receipts for the food they buy in Tijuana. That’s all. Receipts. “It’s just good practice,” we said.

The Old Guardsters reacted to this benign suggestion with defensiveness and hostility. Curt “ET” McClendon immediately spammed everyone with a memo that called Reformers “petty, vindictive, cold, [and] selfish….” Unlike the Reformers, he wrote, the Old Guard “are completely in favor of Bob Kopfstein helping needy orphans” (11/11/99).

–In truth, so was everyone else, though some of us wondered if Bob and Lee were the right people to show up at a home full of youngsters, what with the risk of pants droppage and all.

Mostly, though, we were concerned about accountability. It never occurred to any of us to question the charity itself. (Please note, however, that some members have expressed the notion that the Association should support more than just the orphanage.)

But, in recent days, disturbing facts about Puerta de Fe and its one-time director have come to light. Read for yourself. You’ll be amazed.

Friday, May 4, 2001
Ending an 'Act of Revenge'

An O.C. man imprisoned in Mexico has been cleared of molestation charges. His accusers say they were coerced.

By H.G. REZA, SCOTT MARTELLE, [LA] Times Staff Writers

ENSENADA, Mexico--
A Mission Viejo man who served as a liaison between St. Timothy's Catholic Church in Laguna Niguel and a rural Mexican orphanage it supported was cleared of child molestation charges Thursday after spending 6 1/2 years in prison.


David Cathcart, 59, was declared not guilty after four boys who had claimed he lured them into sexual acts recanted….

Judge Marta Flores Trejo announced the ruling Thursday and asked government officials to conduct a formal investigation into the Puerta de Fe, or Door of Faith, orphanage and its director, Gabriel Diego Garcia….

(I’ve deleted the rest of the article.)

* * * * *
More:

In an article that appeared in the OC Register, Cathcart’s lawyer asserted that “Cathcart's defense at his original trial was inadequate….” According to Cathcart’s son, “evidence that would exonerate his father, such as plane-ticket stubs showing he was in New York at the time of the alleged molestations, was lost by Mexican law-enforcement officials.”

Another Times article explained that, when Cathcart first confronted Garcia back in ’94, Cathcart’s “suspicions were raised when [the] director…pulled up in a new Ford Bronco, while the orphanage seemed in need of repair.”

A more recent Times article explained that, according to the Mexican judge, her independent investigation of the orphanage “found evidence of widespread sexual abuse, including allegations that American visitors took children to empty rooms to molest them.” Said she, "There are adults from the U.S. who live there at the orphanage who have nothing to do with the orphanage. Nobody, including the director, could tell me why they were there.”

(See also “I’m ready to go,” Register, 5/4/01; “Family worries as wrongly jailed man faces hearing,” Times, 5/5/01; “Family worries about jailed OC man’s safety,” Register, 5/5/01; “OC man wrongly held in Mexico may soon be free,” Times, 5/12/01; and “Need recognizes no border,” Irvine World News, 12/7/00) Well, friends, here’s another fine mess…..

Ending an 'Act of Revenge' LA Times, 5/04/01
A Mission Viejo man who served as a liaison between St. Timothy's Catholic Church in Laguna Niguel and a rural Mexican orphanage it supported was cleared of child molestation charges Thursday after spending 6 1/2 years in prison.
David Cathcart, 59, was declared not guilty after four boys who had claimed he lured them into sexual acts recanted their accusations, saying they had been coerced into lying by the orphanage's director, Mexican authorities said.
Judge Marta Flores Trejo announced the ruling Thursday and asked government officials to conduct a formal investigation into the Puerta de Fe, or Door of Faith, orphanage and its director, Gabriel Diego Garcia.
"My bags are packed," Cathcart said in a jailhouse interview. "I'm ready to go."
Cathcart, however, was not immediately released. Prison officials three weeks ago charged him with drug possession after allegedly finding heroin in his cell in 1998, charges that Cathcart described as "trumped up."
"The drugs were planted in my cell," he said.
Cathcart, a Realtor, was convicted of sex crimes in 1994 based on the youths' statements. Cathcart maintained his innocence from the beginning and said Thursday he was accused after traveling to Ensenada to inspect the orphanage's financial books.
Flores said the coercion of the young witnesses appeared to be part of a pattern of abuse at the orphanage.
"All of these victims had [been abused], but each victim said that he had been previously raped by others, and not by Mr. Cathcart," the judge said. "Mr. Cathcart has said from the beginning that the allegations against him were an act of revenge. . . . The victims said they were coerced into making false allegations against Mr. Cathcart by Mr. Garcia."
In an interview, Garcia strongly denied that he asked the four boys to make false charges.
"I didn't make the accusations. The four boys made the accusations," said Garcia, who said his orphanage serves 82 youths. "I denounced Cathcart for what the boys said he did to them."
Flores said at least one of the witnesses, three of whom are now adults, recanted his story in her presence. The others retracted their accusations in affidavits…..

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