Part two of my list of the most meaningful stories of the year, with my five favorites from July to December. (Check out the first five at www.mcweekly.com/local_spin.)
5. In August, the case of cop corruption in King City expanded to breathtaking proportions. In addition to those originally charged in connection with a scheme to snag cars from undocumented drivers, swing the towing business to the chief’s brother and profit from human misery, search warrants were released showing more misery. Officers who hadn’t been charged were alleged to have rolled drunks, diverted domestic violence charges against friends and arranged for illegal access to police department computers. The list was seemingly endless. The main players in the tow scheme are scheduled for trial in early 2015.
4. Also in August, the perennially whiny GOP consultant Brandon Gesicki, who for months had denied involvement in the sleazy anti-Scott Miller PAC Californians for Law and Order, slipped up big. During the update to the PAC’s financial forms, two names appeared that didn’t make any sense to anyone. Each had donated $999.
It took Weekly reporters Sara Rubin and David Schmalz less than an hour to connect donors Susan and David Hargett back to Gesicki. David Hargett and Gesicki went to the same tiny midwest college, at the same time, and majored in the same thing. When Rubin called him, after months of denying it, Gesicki says, essentially, “Of course I was involved.” He denies being the kingpin, but admits soliciting donations from Oregon-based friends because they were appalled – appalled, I tell you! – that Miller was such a bad sheriff. Gesicki is like a cockroach. He just won’t go away.
3. In October, supporters of soon-to-be Sheriff Steve Bernal took to Facebook and wondered if the reason I supported incumbent Sheriff Scott Miller during the election was because I was sleeping with him. They did a lot of this type of thing during the election – went after reporters in ugly and aggressive ways in order to sway coverage, or halt coverage altogether. Those clicking the like button on that charming item include a Salinas educator, a local cop, a former sheriff’s deputy and the ex-wife of a failed sheriff’s candidate. Not that I’m holding a grudge. (Seriously.) Bernal and I had a sit down after the election and I told him we were going to be as hard or as gentle as we were with Miller, and it was going to be entirely situational. So there’s a little holiday rapprochement to mull over.
2. I first hear a whisper of this story in July. “Have you heard,” a secondary source asks me, “about the case of the mom in the box?” It takes me a month to track down a primary source and to get answers: A woman died in February in her Monterey apartment, leaving little in the way of personal property except a box in her kitchen with the fully decayed corpse of a woman believed to be her mother. In a cabinet in her kitchen, she kept a will, requesting that she be cremated, along with the body in the box, and interred at a Southern California cemetery. For two months I walk around with Linda “Francesca” Jacobs in my head. I track down the few people who knew her and piece together the last months of her life.
The story ran at the end of October and Jacobs is still on my mind. Officials still haven’t identified the decayed corpse and don’t appear to be in a hurry to do so. Until they do, the remains of both are kept at the Monterey County Coroner’s Office.
1. Getting documents marked “confidential” is a rare but wonderful thing for a journalist. That was especially so with a memo that was accidentally released to the activist group Keep Fort Ord Wild that landed in my inbox a few weeks ago. The memo was written by a trio of attorneys to the city of Seaside and it confirmed what most everyone else knows, but nobody official has been willing to say out loud: there is not enough water to build out Monterey Downs.
The attorneys asked us not to run it or write about it until they could figure out how it got out; we demurred. The week after we wrote about it, Seaside announced the Monterey Downs environmental impact report would be delayed two more months. See you then, guys.