With the death of long time Republican leader Tom Fuentes last month, the South Orange County Community College District board which Fuentes held a seat, moved quickly after Fuentes passing and voted seek an appointed member to fill Fuentes seat on the board. A month later, the board conducted interviews and voted 5-1 to appoint an outgoing Saddleback College dean and former faculty member to replace Fuentes over the only other candidate for the position — Fuentes widow Jolene.
The Register’s Frank Mickadeit, a Fuentes fan who wrote a tribute to a dying Fuentes so Fuentes could read it (or have it read to him) before he died, reported the board voted to replace Fuentes 72 hours after his passing, but that’s not accurate. The board only voted to pursue an appointee to Fuente’s seat.
Mickadeit’s beef is the move to appoint a replacement was insensitive and/or disrespectful depending on your point of view. Generally speaking, its poor policy for the widow/widower of the deceased seat holder to assume the office and I’m not sure the voters of Massachusetts would have approved of Victoria Kennedy replacing her husband Ted in the Senate, so the ideal that Fuentes seat on the board is akin to a crown and throne is patently wrong.
By all accounts, Fuentes widow presented herself as able and qualified. The problem — there was another candidate much more qualified for the appointment and the board moved to fill the Fuentes seat with Wright.
Take note Tustin Councilman Jerry Amante, a staunch Republican himself, that Mr. Fuentes had missed a number of board seats due to his fatal battle with cancer. Despite Fuentes hardball politics, no one on this board moved to admonish Fuentes for missing meetings. But because of hardball politics played by Fuentes, the board showed the OC Conserverati that they too can play hardball.
From Mickadeit’s column:
The disgraceful part wasn’t the man they picked, James Wright, over Jolene Fuentes. Wright has strong academic credentials and a long record of involvement on school committees. Rather it was the manner in which the board went about it, and the dismissive, disrespectful way it treated Jolene Fuentes and her and Tom’s oldest son, T.J., both of whom expressed their anguish to the board on Monday only to receive stone-cold silence or indifference from the majority.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. To understand what would prompt this behavior, you have to understand the context. The board on which Tom Fuentes was elected to serve 12 years ago was almost completely dominated by trustees whom Fuentes believed catered to the faculty union. Fuentes and a few other conservatives he helped get elected believed the faculty was generally paid enough, and tried to divert more revenue to other areas.
This ignited a war between the conservative wing of the board and the faculty-backed wing, a war that has ebbed and flowed over the years but has never disappeared. The hate is so palpable that one of the faculty activists, Roy Bauer, two weeks ago rehashed for his blog a bunch of 40-year-old innuendo about Fuentes to smear his memory – and never documented a single original fact.
Fuentes died very late on Friday, May 18. That Monday, the board majority decided over the objection of trustee David Lang to immediately solicit applicants for Fuentes’ seat, with the selection to be made at the June meeting. Wright, dean of mathematics, science and engineering at Saddleback College, applied, as did Jolene Fuentes.
We’ll note Mickadeit offers no proof the board actually caters to the faculty union, but holds on to the Register’s POV that unions are bad.
And Mickadeit accuses faculty activist and Dissent the Blog blooger Roy Bauer of professinig hate for Fuentes. I’ve had the pleasure of appeaing on a panel with Roy; he’s not a hater in any sense but is fast to point out hypocrisy and backs it up with significant documentation. Mickadeit also accuses Bauer of posts “loaded with innuendo” against Fuentes (Frank must not read his own work) but again offers no proof. I contacted Bauer about this and he offered this post in response.
From Bauer’s post:
In fact, last night, in a comment to Mickadeit’s piece, I responded to the “documentation” point as follows:
You write: “The hate is so palpable that one of the faculty activists, Roy Bauer, two weeks ago rehashed for his blog a bunch of 40-year-old innuendo about Fuentes to smear his memory – and never documented a single original fact.” Hate has never motivated me. I am trained as an ethicist (a specialty in philosophy). My criticisms of Mr. Fuentes (and others) are fundamentally about their lack of moral decency. Whether or not I have “documented a single original fact” about Mr. Fuentes’ record (I certainly have) is irrelevant. I’m perfectly happy to assemble the already available facts and let them guide us to the most reasonable view about Mr. Fuentes’ nature and his activities “40” years ago. Those facts overwhelmingly suggest that Ronald Caspers and his confederates were unethical and corrupt. And Tom Fuentes was Caspers’ right-hand man for the four years in which Mr. Caspers and Co. pursued their corrupt operation.
Please note that Mickadeit did not write that I have “not documented my claims”; he wrote that, in my post (actually, there are numerous posts, not one) two weeks ago, I “never documented a single original fact.” On the other hand, he describes my post as a rehash of “40-year-old innuendo about Fuentes….” So Mickadeit seems to be saying both that (1) I provide only innuendo and (2) I present nothing original. Let’s stick with the events of 40 years ago—namely, Fuentes’ four years with supervisor Ronald W. Caspers (which started with Fuentes’ management of Caspers’ 1970 supervisorial campaign and ended with Fuentes’ role as executive assistant to Caspers upon the latter’s death in June of 1974). My point above is that there is no need to document anything new, since the already documented facts are sufficient to portray Caspers and Co. as corrupt.
Bauer’s original take on Mickadeit’s column really took the columnist apart:
But we live in a political world—a world in which people play hardball and exploit advantages when they have them. That’s certainly how the game of politics was played by Mr. Fuentes. I have no idea what went on in Nancy Padberg’s mind at the May meeting (I haven’t communicated with her; I have made no inquiries about her reflections), but it seem to me that, if the board had decided to take no action and to leave the matter of replacing Tom to the November election, that would almost guarantee the election of someone like Jolene Fuentes, should she choose to run. How do you compete with the noble widow, determined to carry her husband’s torch? –And in a heavily Republican area in which the name “Fuentes” means “Republican”? (And let’s face it: there are plenty of reasonable people who will tell you that Tom Fuentes was the worst thing that ever happened to this board. The man played hardball, and fairness was not among his concerns. I respect any fear a trustee might have that the presence of another Fuentes on the board would be a return to that kind of ugly and divisive hardball.)
It is true, of course, that any appointee will also acquire the “incumbent” advantage. But the selection of the appointee can be made fairly, honestly, objectively. Even though I believe that Mrs. Fuentes did an admirable job tonight making her case for her application, I cannot see how any reasonable person could judge her to be the superior candidate when compared to James Wright. He has had tremendous experience in the community college system. She’s had virtually none. Near as I can figure, today, the board made the only reasonable decision, faced with these two candidates. Mickadeit clouds the issue with his talk of the “anguish” of TJ and Jolene. He does not object, he says, to the choice the board made; rather, “it was the manner in which the board went about it, and the dismissive, disrespectful way it treated Jolene Fuentes and her and Tom’s odest son, T.J., both of whom expressed their anguish to the board on Monday only to receive stone-cold silence or indifference from the majority.”
Both Jolene and TJ expressed the view, a respectable one, that the question of Tom’s replacement ought to be left to voters. Does anyone really suppose that they are “anguished” that others might suppose otherwise? Does Jolene suppose that, since she was Tom’s wife (and TJ was Tom’s son), ipso facto their preference in this matter ought to be honored? That would be an absurd position. Mickadeit launches into some revisionist history:
The board on which Tom Fuentes was elected to serve 12 years ago was almost completely dominated by trustees whom Fuentes believed catered to the faculty union.
Really? The board that Tom joined in 2000 included Don Wagner and Nancy Padberg, two arch-conservatives with a record of expressed hostility to unions. It also included John Williams, the fellow that Tom supported to the bitter end in his efforts to become (and to keep the position of) OC Public Administrator/Guardian. (Admittedly, Williams did actively court the union.) And it included Dave Lang, who has never been viewed positively by the faculty union. Does that sound like a board “almost completely dominated” by trustees who catered to the faculty union? In truth, the only trustees who could be described as pro-faculty (in 2000) were Marcia Milchiker and perhaps Williams, two Republicans.
So conservatives are rallying to correct this insult come November. If Jolene Fuentes or her son T.J, wish to seek the post, they will have to ask the voters for their support during elections in November.
What’s particularly interesting about this situation is the notion of respect. Fuentes was revered in Republican circles but by all accounts was as partisan as they come. Imagine if you will that we were talking about a prominent Democrat, like Loretta Sanchez, had passed on. Republicans would be sharks in the water and Mickadeit would likely be directing them to the floating corpse or the trail of blood in the water. Mickadeit never gives a Democrat a fair shake.
Simply put, the “Fuentes” seat is not something that can be or should be passed to another family member automatically. Mickadeit owes his readers a clarification that the board waited until it’s next meeting — which was 72 hours after Fuentes passed — to indicate they would appoint and replacement. They didn’t appoint someone 72 hours after he died.
Lastly, this is a community college board. The last place partisanship needs to rear its head is in the field of education. When you talk about investing in the classroom, the critical key to every classroom is the teacher. Without great teachers, well-rounded and educated students cannot emerge. The notion that pro-classroom and pro-faculty union are seperate entities strikes me as absurd.
The conservative OC Political blog is calling for a petition drive to invalidate the appointment citing the appointment was made over the family’s objections. The family can object all they want, but the board is accountable to the voters and there is an election in just five months. This is misguided and if there’s such a hue and cry from the voters, they can have their voices heard in November at the ballot box.