Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The origins of our college district, Part 6: It's true. One of our founding trustees was both a Republican and a bookie

     IN THIS POST: the curious case of Alyn M. Brannon, "young Republican" and founding trustee of what became the South Orange County Community College District. Unfortunately, it turns out that, as he presided over the Saddleback Board of Trustees, he was making his living as a BOOKIE.
     This presents the basic facts up to about 1974, when Brannon resigned from the board. —RB

Alyn M. Brannon
     Alyn Brannon was a founding trustee of our district. I’ve read through countless accounts of his and his colleagues’ decisions and deliberations back in the day. I’ve tried to imagine that small crew of right-wing, government-hating Republicans, including the Little-League officiating Brannon, attempting to nurture the South County district to greatness. It's an odd picture.
     The formation of the first board of trustees was curious, you know. In February of 1967, when all the dust settled, the Times (“Last-Minute Push Elects 5 in New JC District,” Feb. 16, 1967) reported,
     Five men backed as a slate have been elected to the board of trustees of the new South Coast Junior College District.
     They will take office by March 6….
     Top vote-getters in the field of 31 candidates were Louis J. Zitnik, Alyn M. Brannon, Michael T. Collins, Hans William Vogel and Patrick John Backus.
     All five had the endorsement of the conservative Committee to Elect Competent Trustees, which made a last-minute, house-to-house distribution of a pamphlet in populous areas throughout the huge district.
     The local Republicans had their ducks in a row, I guess. The anointed ones were duly elected.
     In that article, Brannon is described as a young, Republican go-getter:
     Brannon … is owner of the friendly Quality Dairy in Tustin. Holder of a master’s degree in industrial relations, he has been an instructor at Santa Ana College in business organization and labor relations. A past president of the Orange County Young Republicans, he is a member of the Tustin Area Republican Assembly.
Mr. B
     Only two weeks earlier, the Tustin News reported his candidacy (“Brannon another Tustin JC Candidate,” Feb. 2), laying out unsurprisingly staunch facts about the fellow. He worked with the Little League. He was a member of “Orange County Sports Officials Association and Tustin Area Republican Assembly.”
     The News offers his “statement,” which is pretty unremarkable:
     “I…believe in ‘home rule’ – that the closer the governing body is to the people the better – provided the size is economically large enough to be efficient.
     “The organization and staffing of this college must be studied with great care and using sound business principles…. I think it time that the harassed taxpayer started getting more for his money.
. . .
     “I will perform the job to the best of my ability, judging each decision by the following standards: a) Is it fair? b) Is it honest? c) Is it best for the benefit of all concerned?
. . .
     “I do not feel that the reception given to those who attend some public meetings has been as cordial as it should be. Some so-called public servants seem to have a superior attitude and treat any questions asked by the citizenry with ridicule….”

     Years ago, I did a little digging into our “founding fathers.” Mr. Brannon stood out a bit. (See Charter trustees: the curious Mr. Alyn Brannon.)
     I wrote:
     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.
Cessna P210
     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. [Note: more recent research indicates that Alyn's son, Donald, was alone on the plane when it crashed.]
     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.
     An anonymous reader left a comment on the above post: “Just to let you know ... yes, this is definitely the same Alyn M. Brannon. He did all the things you mentioned and a whole, WHOLE lot more.”
     I was intrigued.
     Lately, I’ve been perusing old newspaper articles, especially concerning the town of Tustin in the early days of our district, and I happened upon the "WHOLE lot more." It turns out that, while serving on the board, Brannon was charged with bookmaking and extortion.
     We’ll get to that.
     Before that, in July of 1971, he was voted president of the Saddleback Community College District Board of Trustees, succeeding the venerable and respected Hans Vogel, also of Tustin.
     That must’ve been swell for him.
     Then, a year later, there’s this:
     Alyn M. Brannon, a Saddleback Community College District trustee, will appear Wednesday in Harbor Municipal court for a preliminary hearing on charges of conspiracy to commit bookmaking and extortion.
     Brannon…was being held…in Orange County Jail in lieu of $25,000 bail.
     District attorney aids said Brannon, a part-time teacher at an Anaheim business school, is suspected of operating a $25,000-a-week gambling operation, booking bets on football, basketball and other sports. He was arrested, officials said, after one bettor was threatened in a dispute over a $2,800 gambling debt. (“Preliminary Hearing Set for Trustee,” LA Times, September 1, 1972.)
Mr. Brannon, 1967
     They threatened a guy? What kind of cordiality is that?
     And I do believe, my dear fellow, that extortion counts as harassment.
     A week later, the Tustin News was on the case:
     Tustinite Alyn Brannon today awaited an Oct. 4 preliminary hearing on charges of bookmaking and conspiracy growing out of his arrest August 28 by Newport Beach police at the harbor.
. . .
     The college trustee appeared at yesterday’s hearing in the harbor [sic] municipal court where the continuance to 9 a.m., Oct. 4 was granted.
     It was understood Brannon advised the college board and administration that on advice of counsel he is making no public statements at this time on the arrest and allegations connected with it. (“Al Brannon Due for Bookie Rap Hearing Oct. 4,” Tustin News, September 7, 1972.)
     Two days later, the Times reports:
     Forty-three additional counts, including taking bets on football and baseball games and even tennis matches, have been filed against Alyn Brannon, Saddleback College trustee accused of running a gambling business.
. . .
     Don Carroll, senior district attorney’s investigator, said the counts against Brannon now include extortion, conspiracy to extort, and numerous charges of bookmaking and conspiracy to make book…. (“College Trustee to Face New Charges in Gambling Case,” LA Times, Sept. 9, 1972)
     Gosh, I hope that, when they decided to break guys’ legs, they were at least fair about it!
     A few months later, in December, the Tustin News reports that
     Superior Court Nov. 28 continued the hearing against Tustinite Alyn Brannon to 2 p.m. Dec. 12….
     According to Superior Court records, the Saddleback College trustee is faced with a Grand Jury indictment that includes 19 counts of accepting a bet, seven counts of bookmaking, two cunts of conspiracy, one count of receiving, holding or forwarding bets and one count of obtaining money for extortion.
     However, according to [Brannon’s attorney John] Downer, the counts have been reduced to 26….
     Charges of conspiracy and bookmaking brought against Brannon…were dismissed Nov. 30…. (“Grand Jury Raps Against Brannon,” December 7, 1972.)
     Nearly a year later, we hear from the Times:
     Voice prints, ruled as acceptable evidence in California courts only seven months ago, may figure in the trial of Alyn Brannon and Robert E. Kelly, charged with conspiracy, bookmaking and extortion.
. . .
     The prints were taken from a tape which allegedly involve Kelly in an extortion threat over collection of a gambling debt.
. . .
     His codefendant, Brannon, … was president of the Saddleback College Board of Trustees in 1971-72.
     They were indicted Nov. 12, 1971, after being arrested…. (“Voice prints may be used in County bookmaking trial,” October 25, 1973.)
     Voice prints? Go figure.

Zitnik, Brannon, and Reagan
     In January of 1974, the long-suffering Tustin News—the conscience of Tustin, if, that is, it has a conscience—offers an editorial:
     One candidate for the seat vacated by Mike Collins’ resignation from Saddleback College board of trustees has announced her filing for the post with a demand that Trustee Al Brannon resign. She feels his pleading guilty to one count of bookmaking is enough and that whether the judge who passes sentence makes it less or more than a year…that Trustee Brannon should step down.
     …[Through this move,] Brandt…forces the other trustee candidates to take a position on the Brannon bookmaking count. And the governing board will, no doubt, be looking into the matter with their colleague Brannon.
     The fact Brannon and counsel apparently “plea bargained” with the District Attorney’s office…does not mitigate the situation. The original mass of counts was about 36, later reduced to 27 charges. And after “aging” in the court continuances for over a year the matter evolves into a mere one plea of guilty on bookmaking.
     Mrs. Brandt rightly puts the moral issue into focus for all to see. We will await with interest the outcome. (“Mrs. Brandt forces Brannon issue focus,” Tustin News editorial, January 10, 1974.)
     I love the (likely unintended) understatement: the governing board will, no doubt, be looking into the matter [i.e., Brannon's running a bookmaking racket, engaging in extortion, etc.] with their colleague.
     D'ya think?
Tustin, 1965
     And note the disdain for "plea-bargaining." It ain't honest and it ain't fair. As Gary Cooper would say, it isn't "square."
     A week later, Brannon resigns and apologizes. According to the Times,
     Voters in the saddleback [sic] Community College District will select two new trustees this spring as a result of board member Alyn Brannon’s resignation.
     The 43-year-old Brannon quit the board of trustees Monday after pleading guilty last month…to a charge of bookmaking. His resignation had been expected.
     …Brannon said he will remain in office until an election in June….
     “I want to publicly apologize to my family for the embarrassment and shame I have caused them for the actions I may have done in the past,” Brannon said.
     Brannon explained in a five-minute speech at the board meeting that he was resigning after talking with friends and fellow trustees. (“College Trustees Resigns Post,” January 16, 1974.)
     Gosh, you’d think being found out as a bookie would be enough to resign right there—i.e., back in 1972.
     In April, we learn that Brannon the Bookie was at long last sentenced to 90 days in the poky:
     Resigning Saddleback College Trustee Alyn M. Brannon of Tustin was sentenced to 90 days in Orange County Jail Monday in Superior Court after Judge Robert L. Corfman reduced a felony bookmaking count to a misdemeanor.
     Corfman denied probation, but agreed to a stay of execution on jail until 5 p.m. April 22….
     Case was continued to various dates over two years, until, through plea bargaining, Brannon pleaded guilty to one count of bookmaking last December. (“Brannon Draws 90-day Bookie Rap Sentence,” Tustin News, April 11, 1974)
     I guess he took up plane-crashing later.
     So, there you have it.
     (See Part 6b for more about Alyn Brannon.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

With all of this early corruption, no wonder Raghu fit in so well.

Gustavo Arellano: Longtime editor of the OC Weekly resigns

Gustavo earlier this year at the UCI launch party for Orange County: A Literary Field Guide , edited by Rebel Girl and Red Emma, with a ...