The Fuentes file: Fred Harber & the ubiquity of violent death
|Can't find pic of Harber, |
but I did find a pic
of his daughter!
Fuentes managed Caspers’ successful campaign for the post in 1970. Afterward, Fuentes was made a “consultant” to Caspers’ S&L; he was also made Caspers’ assistant down at the County (ultimately, Caspers, as Supervisor, hired two assistants, but Fuentes seemed to be the first and chief assistant).
I have suggested that the 1970 campaign—especially efforts, involving various members of the “Coalition,” to damage the reputation of incumbent Alton Allen—was extremely sleazy, with no-holds-barred on Caspers’ side.
Caspers spent nearly $90,000, much of it his own, to secure that job—a job that made less than $20,000 a year.
At the time, many wondered what he was up to.
According to the man who was the chairman of the OC GOP at the time, Tom Rogers, Caspers represented recognition of an opportunity to make huge sums of money by working with developers. After Caspers, the Board of Supes was about opportunities to support Supes who were happy to allow the special interests to develop the crap out of Orange County. The game was all about increasing density and maximizing profits: the Supervisors win, the developers win. Everybody's happy.
And Tom Fuentes was “there” for the birth and rapid growth of this ugly new reality.
My case for Caspers’ corruption relies somewhat on the notion, inspired by a 1978 lawsuit, which was settled out of court, that Caspers and his crony Fred Harber engaged in a “shakedown” of a developer, Richard Jordan—leading some to wonder whether this was a routine practice of theirs.
Yesterday, I found a marvelous 1978 Times article that paints quite a picture of the Jordan affair. That piece referred to the apparent fact that, seventeen years earlier, when Harber was the City Manager of Cypress, he had participated in a bribery scheme that greatly resembled the one Jordan was approached with back in 1974 (namely, the bit about $2,000 a month). (See below.) At the time (1961), Harber secured immunity from prosecution by agreeing to testify that he and another man, Cypress City Councilman Job Denni, were receiving $2,000 a month in bribes.
But get this: the case was dropped after Denni died in a plane crash.
And that wasn’t the only plane crash that took out people involved in that case. (More soon.)
Since I started to look into Caspers and the "Coalition," I've kept running into stories of peculiar violent deaths. I've already discussed the mysterious 1974 loss of Harber's "Shooting Star," which apparently took ten lives, including Harber, Caspers, and an assistant to Supervisor Clark. (Tom Fuentes and Lyle Overby were supposed to be on that trip. Fuentes never came aboard; Overby actually got off the boat before it headed up the coast.)
Evidently, back in the early seventies, a "probate referee" connected to yet another member of the "Coalition" was mysteriously murdered (haven't found any details about that yet).
Here's one I've not mentioned before: in the mid-50s, Caspers, an expert yachtsman, crashed his boat, which killed his first wife. Her body was never found.
What does it all mean? Maybe nothing.
Beyond that, the stuff is fascinating, to me at least.
Details to come.