Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"St. Thomas" Fuentes was an appointee, too—twice

     “Frogue’s actions…smack of back-room politics. Resigning from an elected board post just before a term expires is an old trick used to give a board majority the opportunity to hand-pick an ally for the seat. The handpicked successor then has the distinct advantage of running as the incumbent when the seat comes up for election” 
Irvine World News editorial, 6/29/00
     As some readers have noted, Tom Fuentes got on the SOCCCD BOT via an appointment.
     You’ll recall that, in 1997, trustee Steven Frogue sparked considerable controversy when he proposed a “forum” on the Warren Commission (i.e., the assassination of JFK). His invitees included some unsavory characters, including writers affiliated with Willis Carto's Liberty Lobby. All of them offered daft conspiracy theories of a kind never encountered in academia. That controversy led to another: various unrelated former students accused Frogue, a high school teacher, of denying the Holocaust in the classroom.
     By 2000, Frogue had survived two attempted recalls, which failed, but which came close to succeeding and even managed to unite the Democratic and Republican parties, if only briefly. Frogue was seriously damaged goods.
     No doubt someone got to Frogue and got him to resign at just the right moment—permitting the miraculous appearance of Tom Fuentes, a man who had long desired elected office but who dragged with him some serious baggage that he did not want inspected.
     I seem to recall reporting that then-IVC President Raghu Mathur had met with Tom Fuentes (then OC GOP chairman) some time in May of 2000. By 2000, Fuentes had already fended off challenges to his chairmanship coming from Big Money moderates. Maybe he decided it was time to hedge his bets.
     Then, in late June, Frogue announced his resignation. Fuentes then said he was interested in replacing the Froguester, but he was not alone.
     On the warm July night of the board's interview of applicants, ubiquitous GOP operative Adam Probolsky ran—er, lumbered—around the room dotting I’s and crossing T’s in preparation of the Great Man’s interview and coronation. Everything was choreographed. I recall wondering what it all meant.
     On hand to speak in support of Tom’s application was the union Old Guard, which still maintained control (?) of the Faculty Association. Back in '96 and '98 they had paid for the campaigns of Frogue, Dot Fortune, John Williams, Don Wagner, and Nancy Padberg. Ah, those were the days!
The Old Guard's
Sharon Macmillan
     As I recall, Saddleback College's Sharon MacMillan and IVC's Ray Chandos were among the faculty who spoke in support of Fuentes’ application.
     It was a ridiculous spectacle. The likes of Wagner and Williams could barely disguise their glee. Mr. OC Republican was about to join our board! Think of the connections! Think of how he could help advance my career! 
     John Williams was so pleased-as-punch that he sizzled in his chair like an enormous baked ham, with all the trimmings.
     That the old corrupt union was sponsoring Fuentes’ application shines an interesting light on Frank Mickadeit’s recent column in which he “explained” that, when Fuentes arrived at the district, his desire to de-emphasize high faculty salaries soon caused a “war” on the board that has never fully died down. (Supposedly, I was on the "higher faculty salaries" side of that war.)
     In truth, those, like me, who opposed Fuentes’ coronation that night had for years been fighting MacMillan and Chandos' Old Guard, a group of faculty (Mathur had been among its key members) who helped elect the aforementioned anti-union and anti-faculty elements on the board, especially Wagner.
     Why would they do that? The Old Guard had worked out a “quid pro quo”: Frogue and the others would get campaign support, and the faculty (especially senior faculty) would get high salaries—plus various scores settled and careers advanced. Thus it was that Ken Woodward and Mike Runyan became administrators. (See OC Reg, Oct. 31, 1998, "Board’s Unlikely Secret Allies." See also OC Weekly, Nov. 15, 1996, "The real purpose behind gay-baiting at Saddleback".)
Ray Chandos
     Frogue's replacement with Fuentes occurred in July and, of course, the election (including Fuentes’) would occur less than four months later! Thus it was that Mr. Fuentes snuck onto an elected board without having to campaign vigorously and expose himself to prying journalists and philosophers.
     One might ask: at the time, did Fuentes say, "Let's leave replacing Frogue to the voters in November!"?
     He did not.
* * *
“We’ve gotten rid of a crude Neanderthal but replaced him with a slick one,” said Irvine Valley College Professor Roy Bauer.... 
—"A career politician is appointed to the rancorous
south Orange County panel, filling out the term of
a controversial trustee," 
OC Register, July 13, 2000

     BACK IN 1974, after the death of his boss, Ronald W. Caspers, Fuentes was briefly an appointee. It appears that, at some point, then-governor Ronald Reagan had announced that Fuentes, who had been Caspers' chief executive assistant (among other things), would get the nod. But then that nasty one-year residency requirement cropped up and the whole thing went to hell, giving us Supervisor Tom Riley, a guy who would never meet a developer's project he didn't like. (The appearance of Riley helped doom OC to endless over-development. General "Mugs" Riley stayed on the board for twenty years.)
     Back in May of 1974, Fuentes had announced his intention of quitting his "aide" gig and becoming a priest; he said he would resign as Caspers’ aid (and, I suppose, as consultant to Caspers’ S&L) in September. But when Caspers died and a replacement was needed and Fuentes was on the short list, that all changed. Plainly, Fuentes badly wanted the Supervisor gig. Evidently, when the residency requirement nixed the deal, Fuentes was very disappointed. He returned to plan A: after giving himself a big fund-raiser, he went up to St. Patrick’s (next door to where Caspers had gone to private college, oddly enough).
Probolsky: elfin GOP operative
     But the priest thing did not take. He was back in the worldly action of OC backrooms by 1975, investing in singles bars, hangin' with GOP bigwigs. He bragged that he had received many offers for fancy jobs. (He chose to become a lobbyist for Bein and Frost.) Soon, he was back on the Central Committee and snagged the Vice Chairmanship of the OC GOP.
     In those days, he was sometimes referred to as one of OC's most eligible bachelors!
     I think that, by then, he had already established his reputation as a guy who could put on a great (i.e., excessive, gala) party. He continued doing that, making quite a name for himself with his curious audacity. He had a real flair for doing little things—providing honored guests (or prospective clients for his firm) with a dozen red roses, that sort of thing—that were memorable and appreciated. (Later, his "gifts" to officials at the Santa Margarita Water District got his firm into hot water.)
     In 1983, unable to synthesize a military record (flat feet?), he got married; then he became the chairman of the Party. And the rest, as they say, is l'histoire.

Old Guard Prez
Sherry Miller-White
• Fuentes’ suspicious appointment • The board’s unlikely secret allies • The Dissenter's Dictionary


Anonymous said...

Corruption of the soul and mind left this "appointed" one with only the shell of a man (if that is the technical term for such a creature).

I fear no fish said...

Facts are inconvenient things, sir. Surely you know that.

Anonymous said...

"John Williams was so pleased-as-punch that he sizzled in his chair like an enormous baked ham, with all the trimmings."

That is a fine line, sir.


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