Temple ransacked: A few weeks ago this space predicted that the election results spelled bad news for the $256,000 Man, aka Dr. Ronald Temple, chancellor of the Peralta Community College District. It looks like 7 Days was more prescient than Jeanne Dixon.
On November 26, Peralta's board of trustees refused to authorize Temple's request to lease a new Honda Pilot sports utility vehicle for three years. Instead, the board told Temple to stick with a rental car for now. Board members such as Trustee Amey Stone explained that they wanted the district to explore other, possibly cheaper options. But Peraltaphiles could read the subtext: You're not gonna be around much longer, pal, so we ain't signing no long-term leases. At the very least, the episode shows that nothing is gonna come easy for Temple under the new order.
This past weekend the board -- including its newest anti-Temple trustee, Linda Handy -- met to reconsider the chancellor's generous three-year rotating contract. The board voted not to renew Temple's contract, which means it will officially expire by July 2005. He's unlikely to step down voluntarily, and, as previously reported in this space, it would be costly for the board to fire him -- if the chancellor gets the boot, his contract stipulates at least eighteen months of severance pay. But faculty bookies are already taking bets on who will replace Temple when his contract expires. A couple of names that have come up as interim replacements, according to one insider, are former chancellor Al Harrison, and senior administrators George Herring and Ione Elliof.
In the meantime, the new board could make Temple's job so miserable that he wants to quit. Not only is Handy going to be sitting behind the dais, Trustee Darryl Moore has obviously split from Temple's camp since the election. Moore had pissed off union leaders, who backed him in his previous campaign, by casting the deciding vote on a multimillion-dollar, no-bid consulting contract with CampusWorks, a Florida-based firm where Temple was previously on the board of directors ("No Business Like No-Bidness," Cityside, July 24). Having seen what labor opposition did to Temple yes-woman Brenda Knight (the incumbent trustee who lost in a landslide to Handy), Moore now appears to be doing whatever he can to ingratiate himself to Temple-hating union heavies. Moore proposed an end to the chancellor's pricey international travel junkets as well as requiring Temple to disclose on a quarterly basis all the consulting contracts (another major peeve of union leaders) that he has signed using his discretionary powers. Moore is also recommending that CampusWorks' lucrative contract be terminated.
An operative for the teachers' union's political action committee had this to say of Moore's conversion: "He's seen the light and jumped ship, and now he's working with the other side to correct the damage." -- Will Harper
An angel by comparison? It's all over but the spanking. Last week, the California Commission on Judicial Performance convened to discuss the appropriate punishment for Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Bruce Van Voorhis, whom the panel had convicted of eleven counts of essentially being mean to prosecutors who had the misfortune of pleading a case while the judge was feeling cranky. The incidents, which this paper recounted last month ("Judge Dread Takes the Stand," Cityside, November 13), so enraged the CoCo County district attorney's office that it filed its own complaint with the Superior Court to keep Van Voorhis out of prosecutors' hair by barring him from presiding over criminal cases. Now the embattled jurist, who pleaded with the commission to let him keep his gavel, will have to wait till January to know whether he still has a job.
Yet truth be told, Van Voorhis has plenty of company, and he's far from the worst of 'em. Few judges have actually been stripped of their robes in California, but dozens have been censured for some pretty outrageous stunts. Here's just a sampling of the more colorful behavior of some of these judicial role models:
* Who can forget Los Angeles jurist Patrick Couwenberg? This upstanding fellow fabricated his entire professional history in order to get a gig judging dishonest defendants! In 1998, he was busted by the Los Angeles Daily Journal for lying about little things, like having a college degree, serving in Vietnam, and receiving a war medal. The commission found that Couwenberg falsely claimed he had been a covert operative for the CIA in Vietnam, that he received a Purple Heart for shrapnel wounds, and that he still carried shrapnel fragments in his groin. Two years ago, the commission booted him off the bench for these tall tales. Maybe they waved a metal detector wand over his pee-pee and it didn't beep.
* Then there's San Joaquin County Judge Michael Platt, who borrowed money from a local citizen and helped retire the debt by fixing speeding tickets for members of the guy's family. And how about the time he improperly pressured a juvenile court judge to cut the son of one of his former clients a break? These sorts of things just aren't done, as Platt discovered this summer when the commission stripped him of his office.
* Fresno County jurist James Aaron was stripped of his robe this year for a variety of malfeasance, including "writing worthless checks" and using his judicial stature to help perpetuate a "classic Ponzi scheme" in 1998. Although Aaron himself didn't invest in the scheme, he encouraged other prospective investors, including attorney David Mugridge, who argued cases in Aaron's court, to put up nearly $200,000. The judge didn't disclose to several of them that he wasn't putting up any money himself, or that he was prepared to receive commissions on the deal. Nor did he recuse himself from cases involving Mugridge, or disclose to the court his business relationship with the attorney. In 1999, he accepted a commission of $20,000 from the dubious investments, which he refused to relinquish even after the principals in the scheme were convicted and sentenced to prison for their roles.
* Los Angeles Judge George Trammell actually slept with one of his courtroom's defendants, one Ms. Pifen Lo, who cut a deal to avoid serious charges stemming from an attempted kidnapping. It all started with an innocent visit by Lo to the judge's chambers. "[Lo] further testified that Judge Trammell complimented her, touched her, and kissed her. The meeting ended when someone sought entry into the judge's chamber, and Judge Trammell let Lo out a side door. ... On Sunday, September 22, 1996, Lo went to Judge Trammell's house. They talked for a while, they discussed Lin [one of Lo's codefendants, over whose trial Trammell was then presiding], and according to Lo had sexual intercourse over her objections."
* Trammell isn't the only horndog on the bench. In 2000, Placer County Judge Jackson Willoughby was found guilty of having a grand ole time feeling up his bailiff's recently augmented breasts. Trammell agreed to resign from the bench, while Willoughby received a public censure.
So there you have it, folks -- a few of our judiciary's finest moments. Frankly, we're a little disappointed Van Voorhis didn't live up the standards set by his naughty colleagues. He should get the boot just for his lack of imagination. -- Chris Thompson
Those dang typos: If Berkeley novelist Michael Chabon were to look in Diablo magazine's online archives for its October cover story touting Chabon as "The Sexiest Nerd Alive" (sorry, he's married), the Pulitzer Prize winner might do a quick double-take: October's feature subject, according to the archive, is "Sexist Nerd." This message was brought to you by the letter "e." -- Michael Mechanic
It came from the Piedmont police blotter:
Nov. 23, 7:24 p.m. -- A La Salle Avenue man came in to report he'd found drug paraphernalia in his son's room.