by Don Greene
Politics is no stranger to our District Attorney, Bonnie Dumanis. Those in the world of local San Diego politics have all heard the stories of J. Edgar Hoover-like files being maintained on them by the DA’s office. Those who are familiar with her and her work often comment that she injects her office into local elections.
It should come as no surprise that DA Dumanis has filed charges against Escondido Union School District (EUSD) Trustee Jose Fragozo. Fragozo just won a very long standing disagreement with EUSD and its top administrators. Late last year, four of the top five administrators filed a temporary restraining order against Fragozo, citing concerns for their safety and the safety of school district employees. The judge ruled that nothing rose to a level that would warrant a permanent restraining order.
Many in Escondido see this effort by EUSD Administrators and fellow Board of Trustee members as an attempt to silence the lone Latino voice on the board. Trustee Fragozo has a long history of working with local school districts throughout North County and is concerned over the poor ratings that EUSD has received from outside agencies with regard to its English Learner programs. Fragozo represents District One for EUSD, a very heavy Latino population, in a district that has a 75% Latino enrollment.
His representing District One is at the crux of the charges filed by Dumanis. Trustee Fragozo’s residency is in question and the DA believes, as a result of her office’s investigation, there are 13 violations of election law with which to charge Fragozo. The merits of the case will be tried in court and we’ll not speculate as the veracity of the charges; important to our story is the workings of the DA’s office.
Fragozo’s residency in District One was questioned very early on by fellow Board of Trustee member Joan Gardner. Trustee Gardner wrote a letter to the Secretary of State’s Office in Sacramento asking for an investigation into Fragozo’s residency. Nothing came of the request and the matter was thought to have been put to rest. It seems that even though the State of California came up with no wrongdoings, the local DA’s office found something.
Why would the DA’s office choose to file something now? Two words: Political Expediency.
With regard to politics and politicians, the Statue of Justice around DA Dumanis’ office has one side of her blindfold raised. Often we have seen where Dumanis has brought the hammer down on those who oppose her and has been more forgiving of those who share her Republican political ideals. Take the curious case of Escondido Council member Mike Morasco.
Council member Morasco is known for a short fuse on a powder keg of a temper. He has been seen arguing vociferously with residents at town hall meetings if he doesn’t agree with something that the resident has said, he bullies and belittles speakers at council meetings with “off the mic” comments from the dais and he has, on one known occasion, been violent with a reporter. While the first two items on this list are anecdotal, the last item was recorded.
In October of 2013, Council member Morasco was leaving a council meeting and heading to his car. The video of this incident may be found on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xP7-fd45n1g. Reporter J.C. Playford was recording his interaction with Morasco and asked some questions.
As a result, Council member Morasco violated Playford’s personal space and is recorded trying to knock the camera out of Playford’s hand. I was told by a Lieutenant in the Escondido Police Department that when this video, and the subsequent complaint, was forwarded to Escondido Police, they found enough evidence – after all, it was video recorded – to send 11 counts of battery to the DA’s office against a sitting council member. DA Dumanis found nothing with which to charge Morasco. Nothing.
To contrast to the two situations: Fragozo wins an election; he is investigated by the Secretary of State’s office for violation of election law which is subsequently dropped; 3 years later is being charged with 13 felonies by the same DA’s office which couldn’t find anything wrong previously. Morasco is videotaped attacking a reporter; he has 11 counts filed by his own city’s police department and Dumanis finds nothing wrong and dismisses the case. Politics anyone?
The level of rancor in the City of Escondido and the very friendly San Diego District Attorney’s office is off the charts. Looking at this example, and there are many more across the county, how can the average citizen think that the “system” in which they are to believe is fair? How does a person considering a run for office enter into the race without at least some hesitancy knowing that the County District Attorney will be watching and, if they’re on the wrong side politically, potentially using the resources of the county against them?
The court cases will be tried and the outcomes will be reported. Hopefully, justice will prevail. In San Diego, it just might not.