Monday, June 11, 2012

Charter trustees: the curious Mr. Alyn Brannon


     The district’s charter board of 1967 included Alyn M. Brannon and Hans W. Vogel of Tustin; Louis J. Zitnick of Laguna Beach; Patrick J. Backus of Dana Point; and Michael T. Collins of Laguna Niguel.”
     Gosh, what were these people like? Inquiring minds wanna know (but they shudder to think).
     As we reported previously, Hans Vogel, who often presided over the board during his tenure (68-72), was an early supporter of notorious arch-conservative loon (and Bircher, until even they wouldn't have him) John Schmitz.
     He was also an early appreciator of Ronald Reagan, having invited the fellow, in 1965, to sleepy Tustin to speak with local Neanderthals. (Who knows; maybe Jimmy Utt showed up with his tin foil hat.) Reagan, you'll recall, first ran for public office—Governor—in 1966. Owing to his relationship with Reagan, Vogel later managed to secure the participation of the Governor for Saddleback's dedication (1968). Surely that makes Vogel the cat's meow, among Republicans, for whom Reagan is second only to Jesus in their affections.
     OK, so what about the other four? Well, I’ve done some quick 'n' dirty research—mostly on two of them: Louis Zitnik and Alyn M. Brannon. Turns out Zitnik became a small-time Laguna Beach politician. Brannon, however, is more interesting.

Louis J. Zitnik

     It appears that Mr. Zitnik was (and still is?) a resident of Laguna Beach. Obviously, he was a member of the SOCCCD charter board in the late 60s. By 1981, he was an incumbent on the Laguna Beach County Water District. A 1993 OC Register article quotes Zitnik, still a member of the LBCWD, as a fierce proponent of a 3-million-gallon reservoir, approval of which had long been delayed, possibly contributing to the enormity of the Laguna Beach wildfire.
     Laguna Beach now boasts a 5-million-gallon reservoir that is named after Zitnik. (Louis J. Zitnik Reservoir and Pump Station, Laguna Beach, CA) It is touted as crucial to fighting wildfires in the area.
     It was designed and built by RBF Consulting, Tom Fuentes’ employer from 1975 through 1994.

Alyn M. Brannon

     1. I Googled "Alyn M. Brannon" and found a recent federal court case record the upshot of which is that someone by that very name pleaded guilty to failing to file his taxes (ten years ago), received probation, and requested a shortening of his probation. Evidently, that person has a prior criminal history ("the Defendant in this case has a prior criminal history and violated the conditions of his pretrial release while awaiting sentencing in this case"). For some reason, the feds took this case very seriously.
     But is this our “Alyn M. Brannon”?
     Incidentally, this tax-evading Brannon often finds/found it necessary to travel to Mexico, which, he argued, made his continuing probation burdensome. The court was unmoved.
     This Brannon (age 77 in 2008, hence about age 37 in 1968) had lived in Oklahoma—remember that—but had moved to Arizona by the time of sentencing/appeal.
     2. One Alyn M. Brannon, with apparent ties to a business in Tustin (recall that "our" Brannon lived in Tustin), was the operator of a Cessna that crashed in Louisiana, having departed from Oklahoma, in 2002 (See):
     On June 15, 2002, approximately 2150 central daylight time, a Cessna P210N airplane, N4720P, was substantially damaged after the right main landing gear collapsed during landing roll at the Shreveport Downtown Airport (DTN), Shreveport, Louisiana. The private pilot and his passenger were not injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by Tower Systems Inc., of Tustin, California. [Tower Systems is a computer software firm that sells a very widely used “methadone clinic” software.] Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and a flight plan was not filed for the 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight. The flight departed the Shawnee Municipal Airport, Shawnee, Oklahoma, approximately 2030, and was destined for Shreveport.
     According to the pilot, while on approach to DTN, he lowered the landing gear, and the landing gear extended. However, the landing gear annunciator light (green), confirming the landing gear had extended and locked into position, failed to illuminate. By a visual check, the pilot confirmed the left main landing gear was extended, and the passenger confirmed the right main landing gear was extended. During a low approach over the runway, the tower controller performed a visual check of the nose landing gear, and the controller stated he was 90 percent positive the nose gear was extended. While landing on runway 32, the right main landing gear collapsed, the airplane veered to the right and came to rest upright off the right side of the runway.
     I found another record that indicates that there were no injuries in this incident and that the operator (Brannon) was not also the owner of the aircraft. The operator’s (i.e., Brannon’s) street address was 13422 Wheeler, Santa Ana.
     Again, the departure city was Shawnee, Oklahoma. —So this is likely the tax evader above (how many Alyn M. Brannon's could Oklahoma have?)
     Now get this: there’s a record of an Alyn M. Brannon, a resident of Stateline, NV, owning a 1967 Piper. According to a FindTheData record of a report, in February of 1994, while operating that plane in the Lake Tahoe area, Mr. Brannon crashed, totaling the plane.
     There was one fatality.
     I have found another FindTheData report according to which one Alyn M. Brannon owns/owned a 1974 Grumman aircraft. Evidently, that Brannon lives/lived in Phoenix, AZ. I have also found a record of an Alyn M. Brannon, owning a Grumman, living in Zephyr Cover, NV.
     3. Other records indicate that there is an 80-year-old Alyn M. Brannon (hence, 36 in 1968) who is possibly associated with addresses in Costa Mesa, Santa Ana, Tustin, and Arizona.
     You do the math. I think it is likely that these records concern one Alyn M. Brannon, and he's our Alyn M. Brannon.
     Gosh, such a guy.


     I have found little information on Patrick J. Backus. There appears to be an 80-year-old Patrick John Backus living in Dana Point. (He’d be about 36 years old in 1968.) I found a 1996 newpaper article that quotes a Patrick J. Backus, who was then principle of Orangethorpe Elementary School in Fullerton. He would have retired soon thereafter.
     I can find virtually nothing about Michael T. Collins of Laguna Niguel.

UPDATE 1/14: Collins seems to have done very well as an attorney. For at least twenty years, he's headed the Collins Firm in Virginia and environs.

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