Yeah, it’s parochial. And corrupt, too.
The ugly board-and-chancellor leadership of the SOCCCD is representative of the county’s creepy combo of parochialism and Karl Rovian ruthlessness and old-time machine politics. At district or college events, officials—the DA, the County Sheriff, county supervisors, mayors, police chiefs, congressmen—come and go. Every single one of ‘em is a Republican, and, usually, they’re a card-carrying member of Team Fuentes.
Trustee Tom Fuentes, of course, was the chair of the local party—and kingpin of the OC machine—for twenty years. He’s no longer chair or kingpin—he seems to have handed his scepter to Mike Schroeder—but he’s still very connected and he continues to nurture his Republican farm system (attractive young men in ties; they relax at the spa down at the Balboa Bay Club). The fellow is notoriously conniving, mean-spirited, and ruthless. Some say he stole that liver that he got transplanted into him a few months ago. Stole it from a Democrat.
Well, no, but Fuentes has turned our district and colleges into a revolving door of Republican officials and patrons--we’ve got cronyism, patronage, and all the rest. Fuenteanism has infected our foundations, our hiring, our honors, and so on. These assholes even renamed their conference hall the "Ronald Reagan room" for chrissake.
Back in March of 2003, the OC Weekly’s Matt Coker chronicled some of our local color as follows:
Anyone who has attended meetings of local boards, councils and commissions is used to the superfluous public ass-kissing elected officials give one another. Taking such manufactured passion to new depths is the South Orange County Community College District board of trustees, which governs Saddleback and Irvine Valley colleges. At a recent meeting, board president Don Wagner paused at one point to congratulate trustee Tom Fuentes for being re-elected to a 10th term as Orange County Republican Party chairman. Fuentes had earlier toasted fellow trustee John Williams for being sworn in as Orange County's new public administrator—the part-time elected official who oversees conservancies for feeble-minded folks who can't care for themselves and have no next-of-kin. But what Fuentes did next says a lot about Orange County Republicans, county government and that particular school board: he congratulated fellow trustee Nancy Padberg for being appointed to Williams' professional staff. The same board awarded a plum district administrative job to the trustee Padberg replaced—even though her qualifications were questionable. The funny thing—not funny ha-ha, but funny as in ironic—is Williams was first swept into his trustee seat as a reformer who would protect South County taxpayers by ending rampant cronyism on the part of faculty and administrators. Dissident trustee David Lang has long complained of cronyism practiced by Fuentes, Williams, Padberg, Wagner and Dorothy Fortune—Republicans who cast identical votes so often you'd think they trained at the old Soviet Politburo. We would have asked Padberg if she foresees any conflicts, but she was too busy nominating her new boss Williams to a seat on the California Community College Trustees board of directors.
Lately, here on Dissent, we’ve been following a minor aspect of the machine—namely, the availability of valuable cash prizes and other perks for local GOP Bozos. Trustee (and OC Public Administrator) John Williams’ curious lodging expenses (over $500 a night) at conferences that he attends as trustee in such places as Tampa, Orlando, and Palm Springs—well, something doesn’t add up here, and I’m determined to get to the bottom of it. But it isn’t easy, ‘cause these Republicans stick together and protect each other.
For instance, when this matter came up during the November meeting of the SOCCCD board, board president Don Wagner—you guessed it, another Republican—went out of his way to defend Williams and the value of the information that he brings back from his Florida conferences.
That was absurd on its face. Even Wagner knows that Williams is too stupid to understand anything he hears at one of these community college trustee cluster-f*cks.
My favorite fragment of the Mean Machine is the way that Fuentes inserted former Sheriff Mike Carona into the life of the colleges/district. When, a few years ago, Larry “Dolt” King anointed Carona as “America’s Sheriff,” Fuentes wasted no time getting Mikey named Irvine Valley College’s “Hometown Hero.” Ever after, one could find Carona showing up for Veterans’ and 9-11 ceremonies at the college, looking very pious and righteous and upright.
Naturally, at every opportunity, I pointed out that Carona is manifestly corrupt and so are the rat bastards he continue to sing his praises. To the bitter end, Fuentes presented Mikey as God's gift to law enforcement. Literally.
Well, nowadays, the Mikester is being tried for corruption. It's the gift that keeps on giving. According to this morning’s Times (Witness tells how donors to former Sheriff Michael Carona got reserve badges),
An Orange County businessman testified Friday that five people received sheriff's reserve badges in exchange for contributing $5,000 each to the campaign of former Sheriff Michael S. Carona.
The testimony came in the sixth week of a federal corruption case that centers on accusations that the former sheriff sold off the powers of his office for thousands of dollars in cash and gifts and conspired to hide political donations that exceeded county contribution limits.
On Friday, government witness Gabriel Nassar said he made a $100 bet with Carona and former Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo during Carona's first term that he could raise $25,000 by selling sheriff's reserve badges for $5,000.
After being informed of the $1,000 local contribution limit by Carona and Jaramillo, Nassar said, he told all five people that each of them had to come up with separate checks totaling $5,000.
"It was a simple bet," he said.
Nassar said Carona and Jaramillo came to his Lake Forest business afterward to thank him. He said he asked them to pay up the bet, and that one of them -- he said he didn't recall who -- pulled a $100 bill out of his pocket. He said Carona and Jaramillo signed it: "We will never doubt you again."
The jury was shown two pictures taken that day, one with all three men holding up the $100 bill....
(See also the OC Reg’s Carona trial: Businessman tells of money-for-badge wager.)