Friday, November 8, 2019

The city of Bakersfield punts on deciding on the site for a homeless shelter (again), Phillip Peters enters the race to succeed county Supervisor Mick Gleason and RIP Dennis Mullens, local water lawyer

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of any other individual, organization or company. 

 * ... WAITING ... AND WAITING: The city has once again punted on the long overdue decision on where to locate a low-barrier homeless shelter. First the city walked away from a small park off Golden State after a handful of people objected, and now it has done the same after opposition arose to buying the old Calcot facility on East Brundage for a 450-bed shelter. Understanding no one
wants this kind of shelter in their neighborhood, the situation calls for bold leadership which seems to be lacking on our City Council. The city will not resolve this until January, while in the meantime homelessness grows and becomes more visible and serious by the day. By contrast, the county under CAO Ryan Alsop has moved with more urgency, and its 150-bed facility off Golden State should be up and running in just a couple of months. Consider this quote attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt: “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

 * ... DISTRICT ONE: Campaigning has started early in the race to succeed Mick Gleason as the District 1 county supervisor. Phillip Peters, a longtime aide to Gleason, has announced he will run and he is already picking up support, and a fund raiser has been scheduled to build his war chest.  Some of Peters' early supporters include Ken Small, Wes Bradford, Terry Hearron and Dr. Sarabjeet Singh. Another potential candidate, former county veteran's affair coordinator Dick Taylor, has yet to decide if he will run.

 * ... EXODUS: It is no secret that people and businesses are leaving California in droves, fed up with high taxes, outrageous housing costs and overbearing rules and regulations from Sacramento. But you might be surprised where they are going. In 2018, the top destination for Californians was Texas, which absorbed 86,164 Californians, then Arizona (68,516), Washington (55,467), Nevada (50,707) and then Oregon (43,058).

 * ... SPOTTED: I spotted this on the Bakersfield Thieves Facebook page: "To whoever tried to ransack my grandmothers garage on the south side and stole two of her giant laundry detergents and whatever else you might have taken. I hope you rot in hell."

 * ... RIP DENNIS: Dennis Mullens, a local lawyer with an expertise in water law, died unexpectedly in his sleep this week. Mullen, 67, worked for Tejon Ranch and Klein DeNatale before retiring recently, Mullen, a quiet but firm force, was active in local water politics. He leaves a wife, Melanie, and a daughter, Anna, who recently graduated from Indiana University.

 * ... PANORAMA BLUFFS: Hats off to Supervisor Mike Maggard who helped coordinate a beautification program up on the Panorama Bluffs. Various artists from the Arts Council of Kern
(Iva Fendrick, Jorge Guillen, Taya Morroquin, Kristen Montoya and Jennifer Williams Cordova) painted power boxes on the bluffs to discourage graffiti and give the park some extra pizzaz.

 * ... GOODBYE CALIFORNIA: So what do some Californians think of their governor and his policies that drive people and businesses out of the state? Chck out this meme I spotted on Facebook.

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out this wonderful first old photo from the Kern County History Fans Facebook page. Just love it. The second shows a group of what could be football players from the old Kern County Union High School.

Monday, November 4, 2019

BREAKING NEWS: A Superior Court judge orders the Diocese of Fresno to produce Father Craig Harrison's personnel files that pertain to sexual abuse with minors and gambling in a potentially devastating blow to his efforts to clear his name

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of any other individual, organization or company. 

 In a potentially devastating blow to the efforts of Monsignor Craig Harrison to clear his name, a Kern County Superior Court judge has ordered the Diocese of Fresno to produce all records in Harrison's personnel file pertaining to sexual abuse of a minor as well anything related to Harrison having a gambling problem.
 The order from Judge J. Eric Bradshaw was handed down Monday, ordering the Diocese to turn over all records pertaining to Harrison having sex with a minor, sexually abusing a minor or having a gambling problem.
 The ruling could be devastating to Harrison if it produces records pertaining to allegations of sexual abuse against Harrison dating back 30 or some years. Among other things, it would answer questions from critics and Harrison supporters who doubt the validity of past allegations, and it could also provide lurid details from the accusers themselves.
The court ordered the Diocese to produce:
 a) Complaints and records pertaining to plaintiff having sex with a minor
 b) Complaints and records pertaining to plaintiff sexually abusing a minor, and
c) Complaints and records pertaining to the plaintiff gambling or having a gambling problem
 The court order, curiously, was a direct result of Harrison's legal team (attorney Craig Edmonston) filing defamation lawsuits against two Harrison critics: Stephen Brady of the Roman Catholic Faithful and Brother Justin Gilligan, a lifelong friend of Harrison's  who is studying to become a Benedictine monk. (Gilligan has since turned on Harrison, providing testimony that claims Harrison groomed young men with money and favors, talked openly about pornography and homosexuality and engaged in chronic gambling)
 Edmonston's lawsuits against Brady and Brother Gilligan opened the door to discovery motions like the one San Diego attorney Paul Jonna filed on behalf of Brady. Judge Bradshaw did not agree with everything that Jonna asked for, but he did agree with what Jonna and the defendants most wanted: the Diocese personnel files.
 In addition to providing details of any allegations against Harrison in Firebaugh, Merced or Bakersfield, where Harrison served, the personnel files may show the central question of: what did the church know and when did it know it?
 Judge Bradshaw ordered that the records be brought to court on Nov. 25, during which time he would meet with attorneys for both sides and hear arguments about how the files should be made public.
 SOME BACKGROUND: What we do know is that several young men have come forward alleging inappropriate contact with Harrison when he served in Firebaugh, Merced and Bakersfield Those cases are currently being reviewed by law enforcement authorities in Firebaugh and Merced. The Bakersfield police department closed the local investigation, saying it was impossible to establish exactly what happened in the local case.
  The Diocese of Fresno has been waiting for authorities to rule on the Firebaugh and Merced cases before it rules on the fate of Father Craig. The release of the personnel files will shed new light on those old cases, potentially provide details of exactly what the contact between Harrison and the accuser was, and possibly provide insight into how the Diocese responded when a priest in its realm has been accused of sexual impropriety.
 From a legal standpoint, some legal observers see this as a repudiation of Harrison's aggressive tactic of filing defamation lawsuits against Brady and Gilligan, which opened Harrison to discovery.
 Said one prominent local attorney: "It was a risky strategy and I am sure they (attorney Jonna, Brady and Gilligan) see this as a gift from (Craig) Edmonston. It's not a good day for Father Craig."

Sunday, November 3, 2019

More lurid details emerge as the case of Monsignor Craig Harrison plays itself out in court filings, the state of Texas seeks to benefit from California's ongoing woes, and Olvia LaVoice leaves KGET for greener pastures in Seattle

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of any other individual, organization or company. 

 * ... FATHER CRAIG: Are overzealous supporters of Father Craig Harrison harassing and intimidating those who speak out against the suspended priest? Those are the allegations made by a San Diego lawyer who wants to have a Harrison defamation lawsuit dismissed because it targets free speech. The allegations came in two statements included in a legal filing (called an anti-SLAPP motion) filed in response to Harrison's defamation lawsuits against two critics. Those two men are
Stephen Brady, head of a group called Roman Catholic Faithful, and Ryan Dixon, a former friend of Harrison's who is studying to become a monk and is now known as Brother Gilligan. Both have been sued by Harrison because of their criticism of Harrison. The anti-SLAPP motion seeks to have Harrison's lawsuit dismissed, and it provides Harrison's critics a new platform to raise questions about the monsignor's past behavior. Furthermore, the new charges by Brady and Dixon reveal a potential dark underside to the widespread support Harrison enjoys in the community. Some supporters, the motion alleges, have taken matters into their own hands in an attempt to harass and intimidate Brady and Dixon. Among the allegations:
  * Brady claims he received a long series of rambling emails from Harrison's brother, Rick Harrison, in which he brags about hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for his brother's defense. In one email, he refers to Brady as "Satan."
 * The more troubling allegations come from Brother Gilligan, in which he provides details about the time he and Harrison were close at St. Francis. Gilligan alleges Harrison lavished him with money and gifts to buy his allegiance. Gilligan also said Harrison would "befriend older wealthier people for financial gain." A one time, Gilligan said he felt betrayed ... when he (Harrison) asked me inappropriate questions to see whether I was homosexual." One other time, Gilligan said Harrison asked him, "What kind of porn do you watch?"
 * Gilligan went on to allege he grew suspicious that Father Craig was sexually abusing kids at St. Francis and was told by another man that Harrison "would take his temperature by grabbing his testicles." Gilligan also claimed that during one trip, he shared a bed with Harrison and that the monsignor "sexually caressed" his chest for about 10 minutes.
* Gilligan also alleges that Harrison "told me directly that he wanted to tell people the sins I confessed to him so that I would be kicked out of seminary... Fr. Craig threatened to break the seal of confession because he was upset with me for threatening to tell authority figures about how he mishandles money, how he would give young guys, including myself, large amounts of cash, and particularly how he would manipulate me."
 * Since giving testimony against Harrison, Brother Gilligan said his mother had been fired from her position at St. Francis and that his mother's home had been vandalized, her tires had been slashed and that his mother woke one morning to find her yard filled with "We Support Msgr. Craig Harrison" signs. He said his mother and grandmother were living in a "constant state of fear" and were forced to move to Oklahoma.
 Harrison and his attorneys have denied all of these allegations and have indicated they are building a strong case against Brother Gilligan to refute the charges, one by one. It should also be noted that nowhere in Gilligan's statement does he or anyone allege that Father Craig personally directed or was involved (or even knew about) in any retaliatory behavior toward his critics.
 THE NEXT STEP: The judge hearing the case, Judge J. Eric Bradshaw, is weighing a request to have Harrison's personnel file made public. Harrison's attorney, Craig Edmonston, opposes the move and dismissed it as an overly broad fishing expedition. At stake: the personnel files might include past reports of inappropriate behavior as well as how the Diocese of Fresno responded to any previous allegations. (file photo of Father Craig with Ryan Dixon)

 * ... BIRTHDAY:
As an aside, it should be noted that Father Craig continues to enjoy enormous popularity in Bakersfield, and that many of his followers are willingly contributing to a defense fund on his behalf. There is open talk of his attorneys suing the Catholic Church itself, and as a show of support, several hundred people (one person estimated the crowd at 600) turned out for a surprise birthday party on Father Craig's 60th birthday last week.

 * ...COURTING TEXAS: The state of Texas has wasted no time in exploiting Calfornia's troubles, erecting billboards across the state to lure businesses to move to the Lone Star state. The billboards promise a steady supply of electricity as opposed to the ongoing blackouts and power outages that have bedeviled California during the fire and high wind reason.

 * ... ADIOS OLIVIA: Olivia LaVoice, one of the better investigative TV reporters to come around in a long time, is leaving KGET for another gig at a Seattle television station. LaVoice will join KCPQ in Seattle, her hometown, after four years with KGET.

 * ... BAD CITIES: Check out this map I spotted on Facebook, which identifies Bakersfield as the "worst" city in California. Who makes these maps anyway? I can think of a hundred towns "worst" than Bakersfield ... have you ever been to Compton, or Inglewood, or Brea, or Modesto, or Riverside, just to name a few? You get my drift.

 * ... MEMORIES:A couple of historic cool old photos of our town back in the day.