There are three South Orange County Community College District Board of Trustees seats to be filled in the Nov. 6 election, but most heat is being emitted from the lone race without an incumbent. The winner for Trustee Area 7, which covers Coto de Caza, Dove Canyon, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita and unincorporated South County land, will likely be a controversial Republican with name recognition district-wide and countywide. We expect no less from a district whose board included icon to white supremacists Steven Frogue and departed county GOP chairman emeritus Tom Fuentes. But stiff opposition to the status quo has emerged.
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Fuentes stepped down as the county GOP chief and stepped into community college politics in 2000, when he was appointed to replace retiring Frogue, whose ties to Holocaust deniers turned SOCCCD board meetings into three-ring circuses where white supremacists squared off against hardcore Zionists. But just like they had with Frogue, voters in Lake Forest, Foothill Ranch, Mission Viejo and adjoining unincorporated areas kept reelecting Fuentes, who was 63 when he died from liver cancer complications in May.
The board that governs Saddleback Community College in Mission Viejo, Irvine Valley College and assorted South County learning centers convened in May to appoint a trustee to serve out the just-expired Fuentes' unexpired term. That upset the trustee's widow, Jolene Fuentes, who even flirted with running herself in the November election. But no one filed candidacy papers to challenge replacement Trustee James Wright, who will now win the seat from voters, unopposed.
Equally boring will be the races that likely return veteran board member David Lang to his Trustee Area 1 (Irvine) seat and incumbent educator William O. "Bill" Jay to the Trustee Area 3 (Laguna Beach, Aliso Viejo, Dana Point, Laguna Hills, Newport Beach and unincorporated land) post. Lang is opposed by Irvine businessman David L. Martin. Jay, the only candidate who has so far been endorsed by the South Orange County Community College District Faculty Association, faces businesswoman and arts commissioner Arlene C. Greer and graduate student researcher Jennifer L. Long.
But Frank M. Meldau stepping away from his Trustee Area 7 seat has created some fireworks. Topping the list of candidates seeking the seat is John S. Williams, who served on the same SOCCCD board for years, spanning the end of Frogue's and beginning of Fuentes' terms. The sergeant with the Orange County Marshal's office before that agency was swallowed up by the sheriff's department, Williams was part of a board majority that often clashed with district staff members, the teachers union and the academic senates of its two campuses. Did they violate the Brown Act repeatedly? Indeed the board did. It still meets in the Ronald Goddamn Reagan Board Meeting and Misremembering Room, fer chrissakes.
Williams left the board to become Orange County's public administrator/public guardian, elected/appointed offices that left Williams in charge of estates left by Orange Countians with no heirs and the affairs of living people who cannot fully care for themselves and have no family to help them. Williams was ultimately driven out of office by two separate grand jury reports and an Orange County Board of Supervisors that blasted his management of the offices. It was telling because friends and supporters of Williams were among those who told him to scram. His departure turned bizarre when he remained in his physical office after he said he'd leave, and the board was forced to have the locks changed to keep him out.
After Williams announced he would seek a return to the SOCCCD board, he filed this ballot statement:
As Orange County Public Administrator, department's budget was balanced and was praised by the 2009-2010 Orange County Grand Jury for exemplary budgetary, management, personnel practices, working with law enforcement to fight elder abuse.
That brought out the fangs of Supervisor-elect Todd Spitzer, who has evolved into a bitter foe of District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and DA Chief of Staff Susan Schroeder. (Ironically, Schroeder's husband, Michael Schroeder, as California's then-GOP chief, strongly opposed Frogue and his band of Holocaust deniers, much to the chagrin of OC's then-GOP chief, Fuentes, who thought the state GOP should butt out of local politics.) Rackauckas, whose girlfriend was Williams' top lieutenant in the county office, remains a close personal ally of Williams.
Through the intervention of the courts thanks to filings by Spitzer, who Rackauckas fired as a prosecutor for making what the DA considered an inappropriate phone call to then-administrator Williams, now-board candidate Williams had to change his ballot statement to:
As Orange County Public Administrator, my department's budget was always balanced, and I worked with law enforcement to fight elder abuse.
Spitzer is pushing harder, backing the candidacy of Timothy "Tim" Jemal, a businessman and self-professed "fiscal conservative" seeking the Trustee Area 7 seat. Spitzer had been scheduled to join other "Ex Supporters of Former Orange County Public Administrator/Public Guardian John Williams" at a rally today "to Voice Strong Opposition to his Bid to Return to Public Office," with everything in quotes the actual title of the announcement.
The event was postponed, but the supervisor had said he would be joined by former SOCCCD board president and current state Assemblyman Don Wagner (R-Irvine), Mission Viejo Mayor Frank Ury and Jemal. Wagner and Ury also support Jemal, according to Spitzer.
"Several elected and public officials will warn that Mr. Williams has breached the public trust and should not be serving in public office," read the invitation. "The elected and public officials will voice strong support for Tim Jemal to serve as the next Trustee for the South Orange County Community College District."
To do so, Jemal will also have to get past Jan Serrantino-Cox, a teacher and administrator who was appointed director of UC Irvine's Disability Services Center in 2006, and author/educator Mike Moodian.
Moodian, or Dr. Moodian, as he prefers to be addressed, is also a "consultative school board member" at Santa Margarita Catholic High School, chairman of the World Affairs Council of Orange County and a member of the board of directors of the Society of Educators and Scholars and a faculty member at Chapman and Brandman universities.
That's a lot of boarding.
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Moodian is trying to score political points from a report he just issued that shows Coast Community College District trustee pensions are out of whack.
That is interesting--to the voters in the Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach areas who give a shit about that district. South County voters? We'll see.
Maybe carry the report while goosestepping and then get back to them, Doc.