Having served as a police officer in Costa Mesa and Irvine for a combined 35 years, Patrick A. Rodgers has seen pretty much everything you could expect on the crime beat.
But the FBI Academy-trained Rodgers–who retired from the Irvine Police Department (IPD) 14 years ago to become a police training consultant, a job that led him to become an adviser to the Baghdad Police College in 2011–still has at least one unresolved case that continues to trouble him.
The seven-year-old dispute involves Larry Agran, the Irvine political machine boss prone to dictatorial maneuverings that underscore his contempt for publicly accountability, an unseemly trait repeatedly revealed in the ongoing audit of Great Park shenanigans that left Agran's political operative pals rich from no-bid contracts.
It's no secret that Rodgers, an unsuccessful 2008 council candidate, doesn't appreciate Agran's two-faced, lefty politics, but the criminal case that turned into a mystery has left the former police lieutenant angered about what he sees as the career politician's ability to influence the local criminal justice system.
In 2007, the adult children of Irvine resident Meyer Stein decided their elderly, mentally incapacitated father needed to be placed in long-term, around-the-clock medical care and gave a 30-day, job-termination notice to Linda Feffer, Stein's live-in maid. But two months later Feffer had refused to leave the residence and began charging expenses in the elderly man's name without his children's knowledge or permission.
According to police reports obtained by the Weekly, Feffer opened a Cox Communications cable bill in Stein's name by using his social security number and she charged a $383 bill in his name to obtain a garage door opener so she could park her Ford Galaxia in his garage.
Stein's frustrated children notified police when they discovered the unauthorized expenses.
To an arriving officer, Feffer explained that she wanted the cable TV service to watch her favorite show, Jeopardy.
She also claimed that one of Stein's children told her it was okay to charge the garage opener bill to his father, an assertion that was highly suspicious to the officer because that man had sent two notices telling the maid to leave before she created that expense.
The officer arrested Feffer on identity theft and theft charges with contemplation of elder abuse counts. On the way to the police station, the maid dropped Agran's name, saying she also worked for him and was his personal friend. At the station, Feffer called Agran for help.
"You're in my jail?" the councilman said before indicating he would contact police on her behalf, according to three separate accounts of the incident.
What happened next still annoys Rodgers: IPD command staff allegedly ordered Feffer's release and the original report re-written to cast events as nothing more than a civil dispute.
Several officers believe the report was further whitewashed in the aftermath.
"Cases such as this, where political influence is exerted by an elected official to circumvent the criminal justice system is intolerable," Rodgers complained to the Orange County district attorney's office (OCDA) in October 2008. "To the average officer on the beat, it appears to be an act of obstruction of justice and leaves a very bitter taste in the mouths of the arresting officer and of all employees. Compounding this is the loss of credibility of police department management, who failed to support their field officers and bent to the point of possibly committing illegal acts themselves."
It's not surprising that the OCDA did nothing. Agran political operative Arnold Forde has also worked closely as a campaign adviser to District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, connections some observers blame on the DA's refusal to launch legitimate investigations in the Great Park financial shenanigans. In that affair, Agran gave Forde a $100,000 per month no-bid deal to do public relations work at the proposed government park.
(Over the years, OCDA Chief of Staff Susan Kang Schroeder strenuously denied that the Rackauckas-Forde relationship impacts prosecutorial decisions.)
Anger with the apparent Teflon cocoon surrounding Agran in the Feffer incident, Rodgers–who recently won a hostile profile in TheLiberalOC blog for his conservative social stances–asked the Orange County Grand Jury to investigate in 2012.
But jurors also refused, claiming they didn't have jurisdiction and wondered aloud if the thievery was just a "civil dispute."
How Feffer would explain the mess might never be entirely known. She passed away in Dec. 2009.
Through IPD Public Information Officer Farrah Emami, police chief Dave Maggard–who was appointed in 2003 when Agran controlled the city council–said today he "vaguely" recalls the incident, denies any political considerations were made and doesn't remember Agran contacting him because he was out of town at the time.
"The chief told me that, based on his memory, the incident was handled appropriately based solely on the merits of the case," said Emami.
As has been customary for more than a decade, Agran–who hired felons as Great Park consultants after he took control of the property–did not response to interview requests. Seeking re-election in the Nov. 4 election to take back control of the city council lost in 2012, the onetime Democratic Party presidential primary candidate created a fake newspaper, Irvine Community News & Views, to dupe Irvine voters about his ethics.
Agran's campaign current slate includes candidates Melissa Fox and Mary Ann Gaido.
Their opponents are Jeff Lalloway, Stephen Choi and Lynn Schott.