After the crushing defeat of three of her allies in last November’s Irvine elections, it’s understandable that Beth Krom would take the holidays to “rest, restore and re-focus,” as she declared to her Democratic Party supporters in a Jan. 3 email. For a dozen years, Krom served as the angry, robotic gunner in Larry Agran’s political machine that controlled the city, operated with Nixonian secrecy, ran fake Republican candidates to maintain power and stalled Orange County Great Park construction by funneling chunks of the project’s kitty to political operatives in no-bid contracts.
At least for now, the fun is over for Agran, who–though possessing the greatest name recognition as Irvine’s political godfather and running for U.S. president in 1992–has finished dead-last among serious candidates in the past two city elections. The situation leaves Krom without her commander on the dais, the lone Democrat on a supermajority Republican council and a fourth-rate ordinance maker searching for answers as she flies solo: Why did residents reject her alliance, and how can she make herself relevant until the 2016 elections?
I’m not guessing about the parameters of her search. The aforementioned email, the one she told supporters to keep secret from the public, outlines her quest. During her holiday-reflection period, she decided voters must be stupid for not understanding why she and Agran gave their top three political consultants–Arnold Forde, Chris Townsend and George Urch–taxpayer-funded, no-bid contracts totaling more than $165,000 per month while complaining there was no money to build the park.
“I tell people Orange County is the most ignorant, educated place in America,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, people don’t know what’s happening.”
With that first prong solved in her own mind, Krom turned her attention to “building a better informed, better engaged community” that defeats “the vortex of negativity” and returns her team to power over city coffers. But, alas, communicating is not her forte. She speaks with a screeching voice that, incredibly, is echoed in her printed statements. This last email contains more than 200 bold and capitalized words, making your eyeballs feel as if they are being attacked by a bloviating screamer.
Krom, 56, must realize her shortcoming. Why else would she feel the need to beg her supporters to read her rallying cry? “Please read this whole email,” she wrote in bold, adding in a second, repetitive line–also in bold–in case the reader didn’t grasp the first one, “Do read the whole thing if possible.”
I subjected myself to reading the whole thing as a public service and can report that the councilwoman has revealed a game plan to “activate” the city. “People need to see the bigger picture,” she wrote.
As step one to defeat the Republicans’ “smokescreen,” Krom wants to manufacture the appearance of legitimate opposition to the ongoing independent audit of questionable Great Park spending. Depositions made public so far underscore the project’s waste, fraud and abuse in nauseating detail. For example, a planned $125,000 playground swing set turned into a $1.25 million expense when Agran/Krom consulting pals finished submitting bills.
“Call to action,” she wrote. “I would like at least 25 people [to speak against the audit findings during future, televised city council hearings]. . . . Email me if you’re onboard. I’ll be organizing a get-together very soon.”
It’s not the first time Krom has treated Irvine residents as though they’re morons. About six weeks before the most recent election, and with her allies hoping to win a supermajority, a speaker addressed the council and chastised Christina Shea. The Republican councilwoman’s offense? She’d told the public that Agran had created a fake newspaper, Irvine Community News & Views, to mislead voters about campaign stances and Great Park shenanigans.
That speaker, UC Irvine student Luis Aleman, mocked Shea by saying, “Don’t whine about getting a little dirt on your face” and labeled her complaints about the ethics of publishing a fake paper a “whole bunch of ado about nothing.”
In “Irvine Council Gets a Civics Lesson,” Daily Pilot reporter Matt Morrison noted, “UCI student scolds politicians over ethics” and included supportive quotes from the Democrats.
“The young man who testified, I think he had it right on,” said Agran.
Krom chimed in, “I think the young man who spoke was the person everybody should have listened to the most.”
See? Grassroots democracy in action: A citizen appeared off the street, voiced an independent opinion, and won appreciative coverage in the Pilot and a second piece in the Orange County Register.
In reality, Krom, Agran and the daily newspapers disseminated misinformation. Aleman wasn’t a neutral observer as the public had been led to believe, and the council members knew him as more than just “the young man.” They knew his name and his occupation. The student boasts on his Facebook and Google pages that he’s a “political operative” for Agran and Irvine Democrats.
MARIJUANA MADE HIM DO IT?
Given he is a high school dropout with a hefty rap sheet, Huntington Beach resident Kenneth Scott Everett’s recent arrest for stealing mail last year wasn’t exactly remarkable.
“I am truly ashamed and embarrassed,” Everett, 49, told U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter during an early January sentencing hearing he hoped wouldn’t result in more than two years in prison. “I take full responsibility for my actions.”
Well, not quite.
He also blamed marijuana. The assertion startled Carter, who has witnessed the impact of drug abuse on thousands of lives during a 42-year career as a prosecutor, state judge and President Bill Clinton appointee to the federal bench in 1998.
The overwhelming majority of Everett’s criminal history–burglary, forgery, grand theft, identity theft and various narcotics arrests–has been linked to substance abuse, at least according to the defendant. Everett had managed to go several years in successful drug recovery, but a back injury during work caused him to get a medical-marijuana prescription, and, he claims, the criminal activity resumed.
“I just can’t imagine a doctor giving you a marijuana prescription after your addiction,” said Carter.
The judge then looked to Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer L. Waier and asked, “Can we indict the doctor?”
Before Waier could reply, Carter smiled and said he was joking, but he clearly wasn’t happy.
“I must be living on Mars,” he said before turning his attention back to Everett and issuing a 33-month prison sentence. “I’m going to get you back on the right track.”
The case began with on-the-ball work by the U.S. Secret Service, as well as police officers in Orange and Huntington Beach, last June and July.
After a call from a Wells Fargo Bank manager about an attempt to pass a fraudulent, $500 money order, cops stopped the driver of a departing minivan and found tools of a counterfeit operation: credit reports for victims, fake currency, fake IDs, tax documents, bank statements, passports, computer hard drives, razor blades, rulers, Epson printer, Aqua Net hairspray, acetone, Scotch tape, brushes, measuring boards, pens, markers, Krazy Glue and copper powder. That evidence eventually led to Everett, who was found with 56 stolen social security numbers and 39 stolen credit cards, according to a Secret Service report.
CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; obtained one of the last exclusive prison interviews with Charles Manson disciple Susan Atkins; won inclusion in Jeffrey Toobin’s The Best American Crime Reporting for his coverage of a white supremacist’s senseless murder of a beloved Vietnamese refugee; launched multi-year probes that resulted in the FBI arrests and convictions of the top three ranking members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department; and gained praise from New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.