Local Politics, It’s an Insiders Game
By Emerson Drake
Imagine, if you will, a hit and run driver who killed a man is sentenced. The local Sheriff has the ability to decide if he spends his sentence of a year actually in jail or allowed to spend his time at home with an ankle bracelet. The Sheriff gets calls and visits from people he refers to as Rotarians who ask him to allow this man to stay out of jail because in his words “he’s written grants that have brought lots of money to Stanislaus County.” The Sheriff’s policy was no home detention for crimes of violence and a fatal hit-and-run fits that description. The perpetrator not only received this “special treatment” he even received lax follow-up on his home detention and was seen several times out and about town, from the Gallo Center, to the Brenden movie theater in the evenings when he should have been at home.
The Sheriff’s name was Adam Christianson and the Rotarians he referred to were members of the Stanislaus County Workforce Alliance, Chamber of Commerce, and the Rotary. The man’s name was Joe Gibbs. The group he worked for was called Stanislaus Community Assistance Program or SCAP. What most people remember of the SCAP debacle is Mr. Gibbs wanted to be paid over $600,000 dollars for his grant writing ability.
Well, that and the fact he and his wife placed her parents in one of the fanciest remodeled homes while using SCAP staff to rent out the two homes her parents owned.
Less remembered is the joke of an investigation Modesto City Manager Greg Nyhoff performed. The total paper trail was an email to SCAP warning them about the Bee’s investigative article.
What many people aren’t aware of is the continuing SCAP connection at city hall. Not only have former SCAP board members been placed on multiple city committees, they still promote on the city website some of the companies involved. From the company that attempted to channel $62,500 to Benchmark Realty (then owned by Councilman Joe Muratore and his business partner Ryan Swehla), to Joe Gibbs and SCAP.
Stanislaus Community Assistance Project (SCAP)
2209 Coffee Rd. Suite A
Modesto, CA 95355
1120 13th Street. Suite I
Modesto, CA 95354
You can see for yourself here NSP2 Developers straight from the city website.
Recently J.David Wright, Modesto’s third largest political contributor in the last local election helped, Frank Ploof get placed on the Citizens Housing and Community Development Commission. It is bad enough that Ploof is a former member of SCAP’s Board of Directors, he spent 10 months helping Daryl Fair, the former SCAP Board Chairman with a nonprofit that hadn’t filed their papers with the IRS for several years and had lost their nonprofit status. Now Mr. Wright is also promoting Mr. Fair to run a day drop-in-center for the homeless. All he needs is a grant. That’s correct, he wants to stick his hand back in the honey jar, your pocket and mine. Watching Wright show up at the last city council for the expressed reason of making sure Ploof received the necessary votes sure took the cake. By the way, despite all of the SCAP connections and the fake nonprofit, the vote was 5-1. Councilman Lopez voted against with Councilman Muratore recusing himself from the discussion and vote.
Watching the city representative make sure their “insider friends”, the Beard Industrial Trust, receive special treatment from the LAFCO Board, which cost Modesto millions of dollars between property taxes and utility fees, was enough to turn a citizens stomach. But quite honestly it was just business as usual for Modesto and the County we live in.
Since the Alliance and the Modesto Chamber of Commerce are 501 (c) (6)’s, they can lobby to their heart’s content and allow donors to receive “business deductions”. The donors can EXPECT some return on their investment according to Bill Bassett, and receive special favors from the City and County.
Our Mayor likes to say “Politics just happens to most people.” Maybe he’s correct, but between the back door, and behind the scenes dealings that go on every day how is a citizen supposed to have a chance?
You hit the nail on the head with this one!
Here is the question posed to Sheriff Adam Christianson on the Modesto Bee CoveritLive Chat Aug 23, 2011…
Question ask by Stanislaus County resident / Blogger SHANSEN:
Comment From SHANSEN
Sheriff how does a man like Joe Gibbs get an ankle bracelet for man slaughter when folks living on Modesto’s urbanized unincorporated fringes (ie Modesto’s Westside, Deep South Side & Modesto’s Airport District) get prison time for lesser crimes? Who “specifically” within the community requested you “go easy” / “not imprison” Joe Gibbs? Would you say this is fair and balanced justice?”
Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson’s response:
SHansen, the management of our daily inmate population and our community-based programs such as home detention and alternative work programs are managed entirely at the discretion of my staff and me. Each case is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.”
I guess money trumps justice in good ol’ Stanislaus County…