I got an e-mail today from an old Friend who wanted to remind me about something.
A way back in the earliest days of the sordid regime of former OC Sheriff, now disgraced and incarcerated felon Mike Carona, something happened that should never be forgotten.
At the behest of Carona, on December 15, 1998 the OC Board of Supervisors removed the professional requirements for the job of Assistant Sheriff so that he could appoint two of his closest cronies and bag men, Don Haidl and George Jaramillo.
These miscreants proceeded to leave a slime trail in their wake that will always be a disgrace to the OCSD and the County of Orange. They were the henchmen who helped the Crooked Sheriff run his sleazy empire. And who do you suppose made Haidl and Jaramillo’s appointment possible along with the subsequent money laundering, bribing, selling of badges, CCWs, illegal deals with crooked lawyers and bail bondsmen, and interfering in criminal investigations?
That’s right: then Supervisor Todd Spitzer, himself a reserve officer in LA County, and surely somebody who should have known the problem he was creating: because the police are always telling us the importance of their professionalism. And there was Haidl, a shady businessman without a high school diploma and no police experience thrust into the second tier of leadership in one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the nation. Jaramillo was a cop from Garden Grove with none of the requisite command experience previously required.
Carona, Haidl and Jaramillo have now been convicted of crimes and their debauchery has been exposed in one embarrassing media reveation after another. That the scurvy Haidl and Jaramillo toppled over themselves in a rush to rat out Carona is the only redeeming part of the lurid story.
And who helped make all this possible? That’s right, the same guy who approved a retroactive pension spike for public safety employees, and who assures us he has the experience we need in a County Supervisor. Guess Spitzer figures nobody’s been paying attention. He is wrong.
California Fair Political Practices Commission reports show that Fullerton City Council candidate Roland Chi contributed $1,000.00 to the Friends of Mike Carona during the first quarter of 2006. Carona was barely re-elected to a third term in June of that year.
Yes, it’s a big list of contributors, but you won’t find the name of Bruce Whitaker on it.
How about a big round of applause for Roland Chi, recently of Garden Grove, for helping now convicted felon Mike Carona to squeak by with 50.9% of the vote, enough for Carona to avoid a runoff in November of that year. Carona was indicted while in office the next year, exposing the OCSD to needless upheaval and Orange County to national ridicule.
What does this contribution say about Mr. Chi’s ability to judge character? Do we want someone willing to fall in to line with Mike Carona on the Fullerton City Council?
As Bill Hunt’s candidacy for sheriff is building momentum, the previously unreleased Attorney General report on the Greg Haidl incident has begun to surface. FFFF has obtained the report now we pass it along, although it has been slightly redacted to protect the identity of a minor (view the report).
The report was allegedly leaked to the press by Carona’s pal Michael Schroeder back in 2005 but was never completely released to the public. Why not?
Perhaps because the 21 page document is primarily an indictment against a department culture created under Carona himself, along with Jaramillo and Haidl back before Carona became a convicted felon and was forced to resign. The report also reprimands several subordinates, including Lieutenants Downing and Hunt for showing “poor judgment”. Somehow even blogger Jon Fleischman managed to receive a slap for his complete lack of accountability as PIO for the department.
So how will the report affect candidate Bill Hunt?
It’s not quite the indictment on Hunt that his detractors claim it to be. Hunt’s involvement in the controversy centers around whether Hunt ordered his deputy to remove opinions and facts from an incident report on the night that Greg Haidl, son of Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl, was stopped with some friends who were found in possession of marijuana back in 2003.
The report does accuse Hunt of ordering the police report to be edited in a “questionable fashion,” but what does that mean? Were facts removed, or just opinions?
In our interview last month, Hunt indicated that he asked his deputy to remove only an opinion that contradicted both the evidence and a confession.
Additionally, a sworn statement made after the report that was issued by Hunt’s sargent asserted that the involved deputy’s report was “too opinionated” and so Hunt asked Deputy Roche to remove the opinions. Hunt reportedly said “you need to put the facts – the elements of the crime” into the report.
Five years later, Hunt is still standing behind his actions. In our interview, he told us that he violated no law, no policy and he still maintains that he did the right thing.
I am told that forthcoming federal court testimony will be revealing. But will it conflict with what Bill Hunt told us?
It’s also important to note that the AG report was not part of an independent investigation – for some reason Carona specifically requested that an investigation not be performed (see page 2). Rather, the Attorney General based the report primarily on Carona’s own internal investigation as conducted by Assistant Sheriff Jo Ann Galisky.
Should Orange County replace Mike Carona with another cop tainted by the stench of abuse and cover up?
Let’s take a look at the career history of Anaheim Deputy Chief Craig Hunter. Back in his day as the head of the gang unit, Craig earned himself the nickname “Head Hunter”, and it wasn’t for respecting the rights of those he served.
Court testimony indicates that Craig Hunter was involved in several senseless beatings of handcuffed teenage suspects after they were safely in police custody. There were two incidents involving Hunter on court record from the 90’s:
The first beating was 16-year-old robbery suspect named Jorge Alvarado. After arrest, the kid was turned over to two of Craig Hunters’ gang unit officers John Kelley and Mike Bustamante for a ride to the station. By the time they arrived at the station, the suspect had been severely beaten. When the witnessing officer complained to the unit commander, Craig Hunter, he was told to shut up.
Another beating happened a few months later after a teenage suspect named Jerry Sanchez was captured on the roof of an apartment by officers Craig Hunter and John Kelley. In testimony that we just received, officer Steve Nolan claims that “Craig Hunter actually cracked Jerry over the head with his flashlight while Kelly kicked him as he lied on the ground”. Later, while the suspect was bleeding severely from the head, Hunter and his partner allegedly taunted Sanchez in a stereotyped Latino accent.
In a later interview, the youth said “I was handcuffed, then hit in the head with a metal flashlight and kicked. I was bleeding all over and felt dizzy and dazed. My whole shirt was bloody.” The suspect’s account of the beating matched officer Nolan’s claims.
Officer Steve Nolan claimed to witness both beatings. He was so appalled at Craig Hunter’s behavior that he finally reported both incidents to a superior.
In response, Hunter launched an all-out assault to discredit Steve Nolan. False accusations were made against him, which were later rejected by an arbiter and then a jury. Nolan eventually won a $340,000 lawsuit against Hunter and the department for wrongful termination.
During the arbitration, the whistleblower received anonymous death threats from what he believed to be his former coworkers at the Anaheim Police Department. Shortly after he filed the lawsuit, someone shot at his wife while she was driving down the freeway near Anaheim.
Were Craig Hunter and his officers retaliating against the whistleblower for breaking the infamous code of silence? The jury said “yes”.
After the allegations of police abuse surfaced, the department was forced to launch an internal investigation. As expected, the department soon announced that all officers involved were innocent.
So why did the young suspects so frequently arrive at the station bloodied and bruised?
The internal investigators were never able to solve that mystery. In the age before in-car cameras and personal recording devices, officer oversight in the Anaheim PD was lax. Allegations of suspect abuse were frequently shoved under the rug, according to a local civil rights group called United Neighbors, an activist group that formed in response to the allegations of police brutality.
In the wake of the scandal, Hunter’s department was subjected to investigations by both the US. Commission on Civil Rights and the US Department of Justice. With the feds breathing down his neck, Craig Hunter orchestrated “the biggest cover-up I’ve seen in my life”, according to officer Nolan. The feds were never able to gather enough evidence to file charges against Hunter, although California Supreme Court Justices eventually acknowledged that Nolan had brought to light a legitimate problem within the Anaheim PD.
In the end, the whistleblower was threatened, intimidated and pushed out of the department, eventually moving on to become the Mayor of Corona. Meanwhile, the accused officers were promoted up the chain of command at the Anaheim Police Department. One of those officers was Deputy Chief Craig Hunter, and now he wants to be the elected Sheriff of Orange County.
10:50 Update: TDR forgot to add this little gem from the Register’s Jennifer Muir about Hutchens sending a helicopter to an LA cop chili “cook-out.” Wonder what Pat thinks about that use of public resources! – Admin
A recent Fullerton Observer article reported on some sort of “Women in Leadership” event and started out describing how Fullerton’s former Chief of Police introduced “surprise guest, ” appointed OC Sheriff Sandra Hutchens in glowing terms and indicated his unreserved support for her election campaign.
We’re not at all surprised by this enthusiasm since McKinley has been reported as having post-retirement political ambitions, and has already demonstrated his connection to the local Reguglican establishment by his endorsement of the fraudulent Ackerwoman campaign.
Apart from political ambition, though, something more sinister flits through the shadows of the McKinley endorsement of Hutchens, and that is McKinley’s apparent ingrained approval of high-handed and unaccountable police behavior. Despite McKinley’s contention that Hutchens has “turned things around” after the departure of the deplorable Mike Carona, there is precious little evidence that any institutional attitudes have changed at all. In fact, quite the contrary. From examples of in-house secrecy and stonewalling, mistreatment of citizens, to even spying on elected County Supervisors, the Sheriff’s Department has shown itself to be the same old operation as ever. The only difference is that now Hutchens is running cover instead of Carona.
The latest example is provided by the OC Weekly’s Scott Moxley, here. It seems a couple of deputies were caught fabricating testimony about threatening a suspect during a Disneyland area drug bust at a preliminary hearing. The DA later dropped most of the charges against the guy who had been arrested; correspondence from the DAs office to the Sheriff about the problem were simply ignored. The deputies involved not only seem to have escaped disciplinary action, but have been awarded medals for valor for a Costa Mesa drug bust that supposedly occurred on the same day as the other arrest!
Here’s Moxley’s curt summaton:
The sheriff, who has promised to restore deputy accountability in the wake of the Mike Carona corruption scandals, refused to be interviewed for this story. Her command staff and media-affairs team repeatedly blocked my attempts to reach Catalano for comment.
Anyhow, in case we needed any other evidence, we now know exactly what kind of police management our former Chief admires, and we ought to remember that when and if he decides to run for office.
As you Friends may well imagine, this category is chock-full of worthy nominees. In fact, choosing them was a real challenge. 2009 was an excellent year for journalistic incompetence, and our nominees each qualified for slightly different reasons. The nominees for Least Distinguished “Journalist” are:
1. Sharon Kennedy. She is nominated for her reprehensible tactic of forwarding Chris Norby’s anti-Redevelopment essays on to City Hall, where a staffer wrote responses and Don Bankhead, between pudding breaks, signed them. Hardly the actions of a responsible journalist. Which is why we put the word in quotation marks in our title.
2. Barbara Giasone. Barbara distinguished herself last year by snagging the coveted Wurlitzer Prize. This year she earns a Fringie nomination by an entire year’s worth of vapid vacuity. Just think of it. The Earth has accomplished a full orbit of the Sun and Babs has not made a single journalist contribution to the folks of Fullerton. An accomplishment crying out for recognition.
3. Frank Mickadeit. This homunculus receives his nomination for outstanding and relentless ass-kissing of the Repuglican elite – formerly people like Mike Carona, but this year Ackerman, Inc., as he slavishly passed along all of Dick Ackerman’s bullshit to the dwindling number of OC Register readers.
4. Lastly, lets not forget Mickadeit’s Register colleague Martin Wisckol, who seems to suffer from the same sick infatuation with the Repuglican clique’s collective posterior that infects Mickadeit. This year Wisckol distinguished himself by acting as Ackerman, Inc. press agent, doing so from the very beginning of the Ackerwoman scampaign. Our intrepid reporter even contacted the Ackerwoman in France as soon as the Duvall deal went down. Later he passed along her lame “businesswoman” resume as a matter of fact, not invention. Suspicious minds smelled collusion. Suspicious minds were right.
Perhaps the felonious Mike Carona promised them that these letters would not be released to the public. Or maybe Greg Block and Bill Prentice owed Carona a huge favor. Whatever the reason, these two leaders of the OCCCWS PAC wrote fluffy letters in support of disgraced ex-sheriff Mike Carona when he was about to be sentenced for his crime earlier this year.
Already mentioned was the fact that these two are backing Anaheim cop Craig Hunter for OC Sheriff. We even supposed that they were instrumental in getting the candidate to run, given that they threw out rumors of his candidacy and announced his run before even Craig Hunter himself could put the word out.
The Capistrano Dispatch published a long list of letters sent to the court in support of Carona before his sentencing. In Greg Block’s letter to Judge Guilford (Exhibit 11), he wrote gems like “Mike Corona (sp) is a good man with a big heart” and “Mike gave his time and heart to the County of Orange making it a better place”.
Sure he did. And then he earned himself 66 months in federal prison.
The founder of OCCCWS, Bill Prentice, also wrote his own sappy letter (Exhibit 46). It was slightly less embarrassing, but went down the same slimy path of asking Judge Guilford to let Carona off the hook.
So why did Block write this shameful letter? If you remember our last post on this subject, you know that Carona allowed Greg Block to have special access inside the OCSD and Greg used that access to promote his firearms training business and taunt CCW applicants. Block’s access to the department has been hindered since Carona’s departure, and he looks to be attempting to restore his insider access to the department through candidate Craig Hunter.
Bottom line: There is no question that Craig Hunter is backed by Carona insiders and apologists.
Why isn’t anyone calling for the removal of the current Orange County Fair Board? Doesn’t personal responsibility matter anymore? When you take into consideration the collateral damage they’ve caused with this ridiculous self-serving shell game of buying the fairgrounds, every single one of them should be held accountable, including the two who were not part of the nonprofit shenanigans.
When I asked board member Julie Vandermost why she wasn’t a part of it, she emailed, “It’s a matter of not having enough bandwidth in my schedule.” David Padilla didn’t return my call; rumor has it he wasn’t even asked to participate in the nonprofit. If true, you have to wonder why.
I’m not buying Julie’s clever excuse and David’s non-response speaks volumes. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out they were probably the first ones who saw something hinky in this plan. Why didn’t they speak up? Was it because they didn’t want to rock the boat and lose the lucrative perks of being on the Fair Board? Or were they afraid of the blow-back speaking against powerful fellow board members could bring?
Does personal responsibility go out the window if you just keep your mouth shut?
This Fair Board’s questionable behavior should be enough ammunition to explore removal. Let’s not forget they were smack dab in the middle of the Mike Carona trial with board member Debbie Carona. Then there was the whole messy ticket/private dinner scandal that some argued amounted to “gifts of public funds,” perks estimated at approximately $40,000 plus. When this was taken away, tongues wagged that 50 percent of the board considered quitting.
Now Costa Mesa’s setting aside beaucoup bucks to create a plan B, (making a bid to buy the fairgrounds), should plan A, (getting the governor to rescind the sale), not work. This exercise in futility could’ve been avoided had the OC Fair Board done their job and not lobbied for the sale or formed their own nonprofit to buy it.
When is someone going to talk about the elephant in the middle of the room? It appears this board is not looking out for the best interest of the public. Politicians generally hate going after those who fund-raise and have political juice, but what if they’re out of control?
Maybe it’s a task for Supervisor John Moorlach; after all, accountability’s something his office has preached repeatedly. Sure his administration’s taken its lumps as they’ve gone after some sacred political cows like pension reform, but whether you agree with them or not, this group seems fearless. It would make sense for Moorlach and company to lead this charge.
But will he? He’s gearing up for a tough re-election bid. Going after political heavyweights on the Fair Board could cause a rift within his party; then again, being pro-active on this issue could give him a leg up with voters. Wonder if he’s a gambling man?
Costa Mesa, coupled with the OC Board of Supervisors, could accomplish rescinding the sale and requesting new board members. So who’ll have the chutzpah to stand up for personal responsibility? We all should.
Freelance writer Barbara Venezia’s opinion column appears online and in The Current every Friday. Email BV at [email protected]
Amen, Barbara, and thank you for saying what no one in the Republican hierarchy has the courage to say. Clean the Augean Stable at the OC Fair. Even if we have to divert the Santa Ana River to do it!
Shortly after Anaheim cop Craig Hunter announced his candidacy for OC Sheriff, a PAC called OCCCWS jumped to endorse him. Of course we found that interesting, since “Ordinary California Citizens Concerned With Safety” is primarily focused on issuance of concealed weapons permits to civilians, an issue on which candidate Bill Hunt has taken the most pro-2nd amendment stance possible.
So why wouldn’t this gun PAC get behind Bill Hunt instead of launching their own candidate?
According to our sources, OCCCWS is a front for a company called “Greg Block Firearms Training” in Huntington Beach. Those who have been following the improvements to the concealed weapons permit (CCW) process over the years know that Greg Block was a civilian who Mike Carona allowed to hold unusual influence within the OC Sheriff’s department.
Back in Carona’s corrupt heyday, most Orange County CCW applicants gathered on an internet forum called californiaccw.org to seek advice on applying for a permit. Greg Block ran the forum, offering advice to gun permit applicants, selling his training classes and sharing details on Sheriff’s department internals with curious gun nuts.
It wasn’t long before the power of Block’s OCSD connections went to his head. Archived forum posts from the now-defunct website show that Greg Block held his insider influence in a threatening manner over the heads of potential gun permit applicants, going as far as reaching inside the department to sabotage the application of an individual who dared to question interim Sheriff Jack Anderson’s policy. Evidence of this appalling abuse will be revealed soon enough.
So back to Craig Hunter’s run for OC Sheriff: Is Greg Block seeking to restore his influence on the department via OCCCWS? A firearms instructor who used insider connections to shove applicants through Carona’s department procedures sure would have a strong interest in putting a friend back in office.
And why the animosity towards Bill Hunt, who ran against Carona and accused him of running an incompetent department? Are Block and OCCCWS harboring a grudge against the man who spoke out against his Caronian meal ticket?
Today Red County blogger Matt Cunningham ran true to form, wasting thousands of keystrokes on another weirdly irrelevant post about the OC Fair, once again failing to even mentioning the fact that Fair Board members met in secret to organize a “Foundation” to buy the Fair; that a few days later they voted to hire a “consultant” to lobby the Governor’s office to include beneficial language to a potential RFP ( paid for by the public); that the so-called consultant (not publicly chosen by the Board), Dick Ackerman, was legally barred from lobbying at the time; that the County Counsel, Nick Chrisos has written a letter to the State Attorney General’s office (a facsimile of which was posted on this site) questioning the above mentioned activities; and that the AG has dumped the business into the lap of OC DA Tony Rackauckas. All pretty interesting stuff, you would think, especially for a blog that’s supposed to be about OC politics.
In his latest post Cunningham claims to be neutral on the sale issue, but nobody is buying that load of horseshit. It’s clear he is up to his old misdirection routine – high-stepping for the OC Repuglicans at their very worst.
Searching Cunningham’s own blog archive reveals that he was himself a proud recipient of Fair Board largess, and that he brushed off the misfeasance of Board members who directed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of free food, drink, and tickets to their pals – pals like Mike Carona, and even to small fry like Cunningham himself.
Is this the only reason Mr. Integrity has failed to even make mention of the funny stuff? Probably not given the fact that some GOP high rollers and Central Committee members are part of the backroom cabal that was obviously playing fast and loose with their authority. His man-crush Dick Ackerman is the “consultant” who seems to have been already hard at work getting the enabling language into the AB22, and who was then then hired to lobby Arnold to get preferential conditions into the RFP.
This fine paragon of virtue has based his little career on looking the other way while his buddies were misbehavin,’ but he can’t seem to understand why he is such an object of derision by so many people, and why some folks are just sick and tired of the Repuglican misrule in this County.
I would do a count-up to see how long it is until the Red County actually does an honest post on the Fair saga, but why bother? I already know it’ll never happen.