By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
By Charles Lam
Even if Michael J. Schroeder, the wealthy Santa Ana chiropractic-insurance king with undeniable access to Orange County’s government and political leaders, wanted to operate in the dark, one man would be determined to focus public scrutiny on him: Cameron Jackson. For the past six months, the former San Diego cop, now private detective and host of The OC Show on KUCI radio has relentlessly lambasted Schroeder as a private citizen “with dictatorial powers,” a person “who decides who runs on local Republican tickets and, most important, who gets destroyed.” Schroeder—a key unpaid adviser to District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and ex-sheriff Mike Carona, for example—is, according to Jackson, “above the public, the politicians and the judges he puts into power.”
“I’m not accusing Schroeder of being a criminal, but he uses intimidation, fear, propaganda and unaccounted power to subvert the political process in Orange County for his own pleasures, desires and needs,” Jackson told me. “He is a ruthless kingmaker. Fair local government is undermined when one power broker exercises this much influence.”
During a mid-April broadcast, Cameron declared, “Our continuing goal on this show is to fight the likes of Mike Schroeder and [his wife, DA spokeswoman] Susan [Kang] Schroeder. . . . While on the surface, we don’t think we really care about Michael Schroeder and what he does in his private time, [but] deep down inside, we all want to know what he does behind closed doors. . . . Bam, baby!”
Schroeder is shrugging his shoulders.
“I know nothing about him, and nobody has ever said anything to me about hearing any of his views,” Schroeder said during a phone call while vacationing in Finland. “I can only assume somewhere between 10 and 20 people are following what he’s doing. I don’t know what else to say.”
So what set off Jackson, who, like Schroeder, is a conservative Republican? He says he’s incredulous that “the man who for years enabled and protected prison-bound, ex-sheriff Mike Carona” is now attempting to regain influence at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department by working to defeat current Sheriff Sandra Hutchens in the 2010 election. According to Jackson, Schroeder is quietly lining up behind potential Hutchens challenger Paul Walters, the veteran Santa Ana police chief who has not formally announced his intentions.
“If Walters runs and wins, do we really want one man to have influence and control over both the DA’s office and the sheriff’s department again?” asked Jackson, who is friends with Bill Hunt, the former sheriff’s lieutenant and Carona critic who served as San Clemente police chief until Carona forced him out of the department with a demotion. “Look at all the corruption that’s been exposed during the past nine years while Schroeder’s guys ran those departments.”
The OC landscape is littered with the political or professional corpses of men and women who’ve challenged the wishes of Schroeder, the onetime head of the California Republican Party: Wally Wade, Mike Clesceri, Michael R. Capizzi, Joseph P. Smith and Doris Allen, to name a few. Some of Schroeder’s victims have received courier delivery of his business card the morning after they were crushed. Does Jackson worry he’ll suffer the same fate?
“No,” he said. “He has no influence over me—and I’m right.”
MORE COP-CODE-OF-SILENCE TALK
In April, hard-charging Huntington Beach lawyer Robert G. Gazley successfully defended Christopher Hibbs, a deputy accused of using excessive force on a handcuffed suspect in Anaheim in 2007. The case made post-trial headlines because DA Rackauckas blamed the 11-1 jury vote for acquittal on deputy witnesses who employed a “code of silence,” feigning no memory at trial of statements they’d made against Hibbs during a grand-jury probe. Sheriff Hutchens and deputies’ union boss Wayne J. Quint took exception to the code-of-silence accusation. Indeed, several police organizations throughout California sent complaint letters to Rackauckas.
Now comes Gazley, who tells me he’s “very disappointed” by what he sees as Rackauckas’ excuses. “The bottom line is that they had a weak case, and I think they knew it before trial,” he said. “So why did they proceed? I think the answer is because of political considerations, not legal ones.”
Look for this feud to continue.
GIVE THE GUV ANOTHER SANDWICH
The week before California voters soundly rejected five of his six May ballot propositions, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his intention to sell historic public landmarks as a way to reduce the state’s budget deficit. His list includes San Quentin State Prison, the Los Angeles Coliseum and Orange County Fairgrounds. According to a news report, the Guv is okay to sell to a private party our 150-acre site (that annually produces $500,000 in tax receipts and thousands of jobs in Costa Mesa) for as little as $96 million, or something like one-zillionth of the current $21 billion budget hole. In OC, we have 0.5-acre homes that sell for $50 million or more. As they’d say in Texas, Schwarzenegger is a couple of sandwiches shy of a picnic.
DOES OC DESERVE A ROSE?
The field isn’t set for the upcoming 4th District race for county supervisor, but if the election were based solely on sweetness, La Habra Mayor Rose Espinoza would win easily. At a May 21 dinner gathering of Anaheim Democrats, Espinoza was supposed to face off against Tom Daly, the county’s clerk-recorder who also wants to replace outgoing Supervisor Chris Norby. Daly—a well-connected Democrat who’ll likely have access to a far-greater campaign war chest—didn’t show. Though Espinoza wasn’t big on specifics, she appeared determined to cast herself as the upbeat, underdog candidate who, if elected, will give the current all-Republican board its lone progressive voice. Espinoza, who challenged Norby in 2006, grew up in a migrant camp and has devoted thousands of hours annually to local charities, including her own: Rosie’s Garage, a nonprofit group offering after-school programs to underprivileged kids. Said Espinoza, “I see my role as teaching empowerment to people who’d otherwise fall through the cracks.” To get her message to voters, she has hired dmedia’s Bryan Choate to craft low-budget but potent TV and Internet videos.
IT’S YOUR MONEY, BUT THE GOVERNMENT SPENDS IT
In the three-year gap between its 2006-2007 budget and its current one, the Orange County Sanitation District increased its payroll by a whopping 28 percent (or $19.5 million) to $90 million and nearly doubled the taxpayer-funded private contracts it doles out to more than $33 million annually.