Who Diverted Webster Guillory from the Road to Retirement to the Pathway to Prison?

guillory-nguyen

Guillory with County Clerk Hugh Nguyen — himself in the process of being beset by Troy Edgar and Brett Barbre — waiting for their turns in line at the OC Registrar of Voters’ office on Friday afternoon, March 7, 2014. Guillory does not look particularly ruffled. 

People sometimes ask me why I put so much time into chronicling the ins and outs of people filing for office.  Two reasons: One, no one else — at least no one else with the will and competence to do it right — is doing it.  Two, it sometimes turns out to be really important.  This is one of those times.

I have problems with Webster Guillory’s performance as Assessor; in terms of seriousness, the felonies that he appears to have committed in filing his election papers aren’t among the Top 5.  If he were ever to see prison, I’d have hoped that it would come from his self-serving commitment to the Office of the Assessor’s new computer system — which, before it became a legendary disaster, he was traveling around trying to sell to other counties, and which probably would have set up him and some others with a profitable retirement as a consultant.

But, we’ll never know what would have happened with that, because when Assessor’s office supervisor Jorge Lopez complained to OC District Attorney Tony Rackauckas about what was going on — including staff being pulled off of their real tasks to focus on work on the computer system — Rackauckas basically ignored it.  (If any disgruntled Assessors office employees want to strike back at Rackauckas over yesterday’s decision, that would be a likely basis for such retaliation.)  OJB would shed no tears over it.)

But this story isn’t about that — because, with Racky’s help, Guillory got away with it.  This week, though — perhaps because, coincidentally, he is now in a runoff against the well-connected GOP nominee for his office — Guillory found himself facing the equivalent of Al Capone’s famous indictment for tax evasion rather than murder and extortion.  Critics like Supervisor John Moorlach who call this indictment overblown are partly right — but they overlook that in some sense it compensates for the DA’s failure to do justice earlier.

But there’s something about his downfall that people seem to be forgetting, a question that I posed to rascally Republican Allen Wilson and OCGOP insider Thomas Gordon (an innocent bystander, but these things happen) this morning on Facebook:

Allen (and Thomas too), as insiders, you may know the answer to this question. I’m sincerely interested.

At noon on March 7, Webster Guillory was five hours away to committing to his long-desired retirement. By 5:00, he was in line to file these hastily assembled and fraudulent documents — ones that he probably KNEW could get him in trouble if anyone called him on it (as his challenger Jorge Lopez, NOT Claude Parrish, did.)

Who put him up to this? Who leaned on him so hard to get into the race immediately that he’d have to commit three felonies to comply? And why was whoever leaned on him to suddenly run unable to go out and gather the signatures legitimately on his own, as I and a couple of friends were able to do in about three hours that same afternoon?

Someone has potentially ruined his life — and it’s not the guy who, rightfully, turned him in. Who was it? Dennis Bilodeau had filed for the race but not pulled the trigger and submitted forms — is that a clue?

No replies yet.  But this is where the story ought to go.  This was, pretty damned obviously, a conspiracy of sorts — although maybe not a legally recognized conspiracy.  Someone likely did go up to Guillory that Friday afternoon (or maybe a little but earlier) and said something like this:

“Webster, you’re our only chance to keep Claude Parrish out of office, so  — it sucks to be you, but you’ll have to put aside those plans for retirement because you have to run for re-election.”

That’s not enough for a conspiracy.  This, though, probably is:

“We’ve arranged for a bunch of people to go through your office and shake down your employees this afternoon for their signatures on your nominating petitions.  You won’t have to do any of the work, but of course you’ll have to be the one who attests that they collected the signatures.  Or, we won’t even tell you that — we’ll just shove the stack of them in front of you and you sign where we tell you to sign.”

Webster Guillory did not likely head the conspiracy that led to his own downfall.  Someone else did.  If the OCDA is not looking into WHO THAT WAS, the office is, as often the case, being worthless and hiding the truth.  They need to determine whether a conspiracy took place — who ordered it and who participated — because those who ordered it are as guilty as Guillory OR MORE.  If they find that he acted completely on his own, great — but his attorney is strongly suggesting otherwise.

So who else could have been involved?  This takes us into internal hatreds within the OCGOP, about which many of our readers know more than I do (and I hope that you’ll speak up, ideally not anonymously), but I do have one advantage in sleuthing this out: I read what I wrote at the time about this race.  (Well, I read most of it, anyway.)

Come with us back to the relevant section of a piece published on Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Day at the Races 4, March 2 — With Five Days Left, Who’s In, Who’s On, Who’s Missing?

Assessor

The incumbent in the only remaining non-hyphenated County Office is Webster Guillory, who is vulnerable and may not run for re-election.  Claude Parrish of the Board of Equalization, and long-term Assessor’s Office Manager — and whistleblower – Jorge Lopez have taken out papers.  Both of the latter have paid their filing fees.  [Update, 3/4: a Francis Kavanaugh is now on the list without apparently having done anything to get there (presumably a clerical error) and Dennis Bilodeau has paid his filing fee and has been issued his nomination papers.]  [3/6 Parrish is in.  This is likely to go to November.]

The blue font was an update from Tuesday.  The brown was an update from Thursday.  So, as of Monday, Parrish and Guillory had taken out papers and paid their filing fees.  On Tuesday, Kavanaugh took out papers (or maybe didn’t, and doesn’t figure in the story.)  Dennis Bilodeau had paid his filing fee and received his filing paperwork.  Then on Thursday, Parrish ended speculation and did enter the race.  (Note the prediction, too.)

Here’s my report on what happened Friday, published that evening and updated the next day, March 8:

Just the Headlines (Plus a Bit More) for Now from Friday at the Registrar of Voters’ Office

21. Guillory In, Bilodeau Apparently Out in Assessor’s Race!

There must be a really interesting backstory to this one.  Apparently a lot of people really don’t like Claude Parrish, who got 46% of the vote against incumbent Webster in 2010.  Shawn Nelson Chief of Staff Denis Bilodeau went through the whole process of filing on Thursday – except for the final step of filing the Declaration of Candidacy and being sworn in.  It looks like — and this is only my speculation — maybe someone did some polling overnight and decided that Bilodeau would lose to Parrish.  So, late in the day, in comes Guillory, filing all of his papers and getting sworn in — and Bilodeau never completes his filing.  Happily for everyone, Guillory and Parrish can both lose, because highly experienced and honest Jorge Lopez is also on the ballot and should be both sides’ second choice.  (And he should be the first choice of everyone else.)

So based on contemporaneous reports — you’re welcome, world! — it REALLY looks like there was either some coordination between Guillory and Bilodeau as to who would take out Parrish, or else Guillory (learning about Parrish’s not running from … whom?) just up and decided to do a mad dash to the Registrar of Voters office on his own.

I’m at the mercy here of those who better understand OCGOP politics than I do: what do you think happened?

Let’s keep in mind: A MAN’S LIFE WAS PROBABLY RUINED HERE!  Guillory’s path was derailed from retirement to, perhaps, prison!

His life was not ruined by Jorge Lopez, the thwarted and ignored whistleblower who had every right to blow the whistle again at Guillory’s failing to follow the rules that he had followed.  (Given how much people seem to hate Parrish, Lopez might have had a shot in a two-person race.  Not a great chance — but some.  He’s competent and honest.)

His life was not ruined by Tony Rackauckas, who was after all just doing his job.  (That no one could have anticipated Racky doing his job wouldn’t matter for these purposes — although of course, as I noted yesterday, I did anticipate exactly this happening back in May.)

The person or persons who may have ruined Webster Guillory’s life were the people who at best pushed him to get onto the ballot by any means necessary — and at worst specifically told him — and even helped him — to break the law to do so.

Guillory knows who they are.  People who signed those nomination signatures know who helped him.  Before we in the he public feel too sorry for Guillory over this potentially disproportionate punishment, we should know who they are too — because some of them may, much more so than Guillory himself, deserve punishment.


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)