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Thanks to Greg Diamond for the perfect title! And now I shall tell this tale, for I was there, and I took the pictures. And also, I was there BECAUSE of Greg – my friend Marselle and I had just zipped all over central OC getting signatures for his bold DA race, and we’d earned the right to kick back and schmooze with all the politicos getting in to file for election at THE VERY LAST HOUR. This was three days ago, Friday March 7, 2014.
And this story shall be solely about the race for the coveted, glamorous, $148K-plus-benefits-paying post of Clerk-Recorder – the position that every snotty-nosed, whinging, Orange County child dreams of some day attaining. So it is a short, simple, sweet story – but I shall flesh it out, and I shall milk it. Just watch me.
One friendly face I found in that crowd of politicians and consultants was current Clerk-Recorder Hugh (prev. Hieu) Nguyen, sitting next to County Assessor Webster Guillory (left.) This blog feels some pride in having helped Hugh get that position, which could have gone to any number of crooked and useless career politicians who were trying hard to get their OLD OLD FRIENDS on the Board of Supes to hand it to them on a silver platter last year – but we really wanted to see it go to an unambitious, unassuming cat who’d been working in that office for years and sincerely just wanted to make it work well. So we lobbied three of the supervisors on Hugh’s behalf, live-blogged the final interviews here, and Hugh got the gig – which we still count as one of this blog’s many 2013 victories.
Since then, my colleague Cynthia Ward, who, as a professional researcher, frequently uses the Clerk-Recorder offices, has several times expressed great consternation over a rumor that Hugh was going to move their archives from downtown Santa Ana to Cal State Fullerton, which would somehow make her work difficult-to-impossible. And as I tried to hook her up with Hugh to discuss this problem, we had a hell of a time getting any sensible response from him. Now we know the reason why: I had TWO Hieu Nguyens on my phone; the other one was a LGBT activist who spearheaded the move for inclusiveness in the latest Tet Parade (another victory!) Gay Hieu was really puzzled by all the messages about Cynthia and the “moving archives,” LOL. Anyway Clerk Hugh wants Cynthia to know that this move is unlikely at this point, and he would love to meet with her and hear her concerns. Mostly he’s proud of:
- the progress he’s already made automating and digitizing all their images to make them more readily available to the public;
- opening up the main office for ONE SATURDAY A MONTH, which he says has been spectacularly successful and popular;
- keeping the satellite offices open till 4:30; and
- the huge improvement in morale over the days of his predecessor Tom Daly. He urges me “just come in any day and talk to the staff.” Maybe I will. One of these days.
Still, Hugh seemed in a foul mood, as he sat brooding and muttering by his urbane comrade Webster, who seemed to be consoling and commiserating with him. The reason is that he was watching not the expected ONE challenger (Democrat Gary Pritchard) file to run for his office, but a second, unexpected Republican challenger – the notoriously slimy Troy Edgar who had just popped up at the last minute like a Jack-in-the-Box, and was at this very moment, with his equally skeevy consultant pal Brett Barbre – as the 5:00 deadline fast approached – attempting to get enough signatures to put himself on the ballot, in that same room!
I thought I should first go talk to Hugh’s Democratic challenger, my old acquaintance Gary Pritchard from south county. Back in 2010 this blog helped him and his “Capistrano Children First” colleagues take over the Capistrano Unified School Board from an extremist, anti-public education “reform” slate that had seized power two years before; and Gary and his friends have been running things real well since then by most accounts. Also Gary’s (now ex) wife Heather used to be a somewhat well-liked liberal blogger in this county.
So I asked Gary, in a pause while the ROV employee went to go get him his paperwork, “What would you do, differently from Hugh?” The wheels in his head seemed to start to move, very slowly. But after a few false starts, it became obvious that he thought my question was How would he CAMPAIGN differently from how Hugh is campaigning. (However that is.)
No, I mean … you want to be Clerk-Recorder, don’t you? How would you run that office different from how Hugh is doing it? What would you change? How is Hugh fucking the place up, betraying the public trust if you will?
“Ah!” And he had to think for a minute. “Well, for one thing, I would see if there was some way I could expand services – ” and the employee returned with his paperwork, which Gary dove back into with a look of relief at having escaped my questions. That was kinda disappointing – it seemed the Democratic challenger doesn’t really know WHY he’s running.
Troy and Brett
But the real characters are Troy Edgar and his consultant Brett Barbre.
Troy got trounced two years ago in an assembly race by total newcomer Travis Allen (who was also there Friday) despite spending half a million and having racked up all the big Republican (and some DINO) endorsements. He does manage to keep getting re-elected to the Los Alamitos City Council, but he’s done so many crooked things there that he has very vocal Los Al critics warning the rest of us about his corruption and backstabbing nature. In person, he doesn’t look as much like the great British actor Tim Roth as I thought, since he’s about two feet taller than the pint-sized scenery chewer.
It was good to see what Brett Barbre looks like, I had heard so many stories about him. We’ve been butting heads from a distance over the wasteful and destructive Poseidon scam, which he tirelessly shills for from his perch on the Metropolitan Water District.
But the most outrageous – AND relevant – Barbre story is also one of the most underreported stories of the last few years, broken by Bushala’s dearly-missed blog in 2010. Everyone knows about former Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly steering tens of thousands of public money to Jordan Brandman for a report on satellite office expansion – a report that didn’t happen, and didn’t happen, and then was ripped off from wikipedia, and then was finally turned in late when there was way too much shit hitting the fan over it. We know about that mainly because the Voice of OC was ALL OVER Brandman in 2012.
But nobody seems to know or care that Daly did almost the exact same thing for the sneakier and more obscure Brett Barbre a couple years earlier – paid him $48,000 of YOUR money – just under the amount the Supes woulda had to approve (as in the Brandman case) – for a study of a possible “OC Sports Hall of Fame” – a study which ALSO never happened. See Bushala for the details and documents.
When Daly ascended into the Assembly, he tried to move heaven and earth to hand the office over to his pliant, mousy assistant Renee Ramirez, and Barbre was in the forefront of that, squiring her all over the county to introduce her to all the movers and shakers he knows. We managed to get the honest Hugh in instead. And now here comes Brett with a NEW sleazy politician that he wants to install into that same office. It really looks like Brett sees the Clerk-Recorder office as a gravy train that he wants to get running again, and I think it reflects well on Hugh that Hugh apparently just doesn’t “do it” for Brett.
Anyway, as the clock got closer and closer to the 5pm deadline, Troy STILL didn’t have his minimum 20 signatures, and Brett just kept hitting up everyone in the room for a few more. (Geez, how pathetic – me and Diamond and Marselle started that same afternoon and got almost 40.) And Diamond kept telling me, “Take some more pictures, Vern! This is a historic day!” But my phone was running out of battery, and I couldn’t find my charger, which I had just set down RIGHT OVER THERE!
The Real Bad Guy
Then my phone rang – it was Marselle, who had gone out for a smoke or something, and brought my charger with her “so it wouldn’t get stolen” – LOL, did she have a better bead on these politicos than me or what? And as it was NOW AFTER 5, the guards wouldn’t let her back in! “OK, let me see, I’ll let you in this door over here,” I innocently said.
Diamond, seeing what I was about to attempt, hollered across the room, “They’re not going to let you do that, Vern!” And every person in the room – fifty people – politicos, consultants, hangers-on, employees – all turned and stared at me to see what mayhem the disreputable blogger might be attempting. And they just kept staring.
You don’t DO that to someone who’s a performer. I think on balance I behaved well. I snarled something like, “What are YOU all staring at?” But I was sorely tempted to re-enact Tony Montana’s “Bad Guy” restaurant scene:
Then I figured it WAS time for me to leave, my work there was done. The short black female guard said, “Sir, you know, once you leave, you can’t come back in here.” “Never, ever, EVER? Not even next week?” “Of course you can come back next week, sir.” “Never mind, I’m outta here. I know when I’m not wanted. THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR KIND INDULGENCE!” And I slammed the door, and didn’t once look back.
And I have never set foot in that place again.
When I got home to my laptop, I saw the OCPolitical report that Troy and Brett were busted collecting their last couple signatures after the 5pm cutoff – busted by security cameras AND five witnesses – and disqualified from the Clerk Recorder race. ROTFLMAO, couldn’ta happened to a sleazier pair. And this must have been right around the time I was leaving, must have been a lot going on at the same time.
Los Alamitos gadfly-blogger J. M. Ivler, who’s long been one of Edgar’s most tireless critics, spins it that maybe Los Al voters should wake up and realize that this city’s not big enough for Troy, that he just keeps snatching out wildly but unsuccessfully for any higher office he can find.
And again, I think it reflects well on having an honest, simple guy like Hugh in there, that Brett Barbre would feel the need to help install a new kleptocrat – a Trojan Horse if you will – in (probable) hopes of re-starting another gravy train for himself.
Well, that’s it for now. Nelson out. Carry on…