The Doublemint Twins
Did you hear that Tulare Regional Medical Center just picked up two new allies? They’re Assemblyman Devon Mathis and Tulare Mayor Carlton Jones.
When Joseph Oldenbourg, editor of the Valley Voice, heard the news he said, “If I had a gun I don’t know if I’d shoot myself or someone else.”
Do you think someone should clue in Mr. Mathis and Mr. Jones that the Tulare hospital has closed? Not only did the hospital close, one of the largest tax payers and employers in Tulare, but it happened on their watch.
Where were Mr. Mathis and Mr. Jones when the hospital was falling off a cliff?
Mr. Jones is quoted as saying earlier in the year concerning the hospital, “We have our own responsibilities here, as a council. If I wanted to run the hospital, I would have ran for the hospital board.”
Mr. Mathis, who after many requests over the years refused to do anything for the hospital, now has the gall, during the joint city council and hospital board meeting on November 7, to submit a letter of support to the Tulare Regional Medical Center Board of Directors?
Mr. Mathis shouldn’t be submitting a letter of support–he should be submitting a letter of apology.
As for Mr. Jones, Jenifer Burcham of Tulare asked during public comment for the reorganization of the city council and the removal of Mr. Jones as mayor. The chamber audience broke out into applause.
While writing my November 1 Political Fix column about Mr. Mathis’ current personal and political challenges, I thought how ironic it was that the only elected official to come to Mr. Mathis’ defense was in fact Mr. Jones.
Alberto Aguilar, a former member of the hospital district’s Bond Oversight Committee, told the Voice’s Dave Adalian in March of 2016 that Mathis hadn’t requested an audit because “he owes Dr. [Benny] Benzeevi” a favor.
Benzeevi, of course, is the CEO of Healthcare Conglomerate Associates, the company which is embroiled in battle over the management of Tulare Regional.
The claim came up later in attack mailers that Mathis’ office claimed were conjured up by Devin Nunes.
In a May 2016 press release, posted on the website GovBuddy, Mathis’ office quoted Jones as stating that he was “standing there and at no time did Assemblyman Mathis say he owed Dr. Benzeevi a favor.”
Mathis’ office also claimed the Voice has “long history of reporting false information.”
Picturing Mr. Jones furrow his brow while defending his buddy Mathis made me realize how identical the two are.
Like the Doublemint Twins: double fresh and double smooth.
Both Mr. Mathis and Mr. Jones are Tulare high school graduates, have been married twice, and have a passel of “his, hers, and theirs” kids to support.
Both have been in hot water with the ladies, and I’m not referring to their wives.
Both men ran for the California State Assembly in 2014 on opposite sides of the aisle but have only the most questionable grasp on their chosen political party. Depending how the wind (or money) is blowing that day determines if Mr. Mathis votes Republican or not. And Mr. Jones is a more conservative Democrat than most Republicans I know.
Both men have anger management problems that spill from the bedroom over into their professional lives.
And both of these representatives were handsomely paid off by the CEO of Healthcare Conglomerate Associates, Dr. Benny Benzeevi.
Which brings us to similarity #10 and #11 – Mr. Mathis and Mr. Jones deftly navigate the pay to play political game, yet both have a tenuous handle on their own personal finances.
As for Mr. Mathis, each assembly member is given a certain amount per day, called a per diem, for living expenses while working in Sacramento. The member can pocket what they don’t use. Congressman David Valadao of Hanford started his political career in the California State Assembly and shared an apartment in the capitol with his chief of staff while the assembly was in session. Staying at an apartment and eating in versus staying at a hotel saves about $1000 a month.
That’s what I call a fiscal conservative.
Mr. Mathis, on the other hand, parks his princely rear end at the Embassy Suites Hotel, orders room service, goes bar hopping and clubbing and ends up, according to his divorce papers, actually spending more money than receives for his per diem.
That’s what I call a tax and spend liberal.
In 2014, before he even received his first assembly paycheck, the unemployed Mr. Mathis bought himself a $70,000 truck with a $1,600 per month payment. Then his family moved from their modest, but affordable, home in southwest Visalia to an expensive rental in North Visalia’s Shannon Ranch. These financial obligations all landed on top of his existing debts and child support payments.
Mr. Jones has been under financial stress for years. He has been sued by creditors, collection agencies, and has had his wages garnished. His house was foreclosed on and he was the subject of several small claims suits. The current flap over Tulare Police Chief Wes Hensley allegedly has includes something to do with Mr. Jones’ use of a city credit card.
One local business woman’s testimony–whose credit card number was allegedly stolen by Mr. Jones– said, “He stopped by my business unannounced, pushed me up against the counter and said that if I don’t quit asking for my money he would announce to my soon to be ex that he and I were having an affair.”
The fact is that Mr. Mathis and Mr. Jones are extremely financially compromised. For Mr. Mathis to support a family of nine in Visalia, and his bachelor lifestyle in Sacramento, means his bills must outpace his assembly salary.
The same financial reality seems to be true for Mr.Jones.
Similarity #12 – Mr. Jones and Mr. Mathis are two of the most financially vulnerable elected officials in Tulare County.
So what is a politician to do?
Given the constant drum beat of bad press Mr. Mathis receives, I predict that even Mr. Jones will jump ship and dump his friend.
But then what will happen to the Doublemint Twins?
I guess it will just have to change it to Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumber.
I’ll let the reader pick who is who.
Why Are Our Tax Dollars Used as Hush Money to Protect Sexual Predators?
Here is a riddle:
What’s the difference between the Hollywood bubble that protects sexual predators like Harvey Weinstein and the California State Assembly Rules Committee?
One is located in Southern California and the other is in Sacramento.
It seems that while everyone has been shocked over the hundreds of allegations concerning sexual harassment and the abuse of women in Sacramento, the Assembly Rules Committee has known the whole time.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “roughly $1 million in settlement payments have been made since 2006.” These payments have been made in secret to settle cases of sexual harassment, racism and other claims.
That amount doesn’t include legal fees the rules committee often pays for outside council. Nor does it reflect all the settlements, because the rules committee won’t release all the information.
Nor would they say against whom the settlements were made.
Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee said, “Over the years, specific cases of demands for sexual favors and other forms of harassment have been ignored or covered up, often with secret payoffs to the victims.”
The Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee requests for documents concerning complaints against lawmakers and their staff produced very little information but both papers received the same laughable letter from the Assembly Rules Committee.
The letter stated “The public disclosure of records concerning complaints and investigations compromises the privacy rights of victims, witnesses, and others. Public disclosure may even have the unfortunate effect of discouraging our employees and others from coming forward with complaints or information,” said Assembly Chief Administrative Officer Debra Gravert.
So how well is the Assembly Rules Committee strategy working to encourage women to come forward?
Here is the response given to the Los Angeles Times of the newly formed organization WeSaidEnough.
“The Legislature continues to do what it does best, protect itself,” the organization wrote. “This release of documents gets taxpayers no closer to knowing what happens when an employee makes a complaint and how it was handled. We have no way of knowing if this represents the full universe of complaints or just a select few. We continue to call on the Legislature to be completely transparent about their process and settlements that they have paid out.”
State Senator Richard Roth of Riverside, who has fought hard for change, said, “the way the legislature deals with complaints is certainly not a process that encourages people to come forward,” he told the New York Times.
Two legislators that we know of who have been shielded by the rules committee are Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra from San Fernando Valley and our own Assemblyman, Devon Mathis
Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra sexually assaulted a fellow staffer when he was in the position of chief of staff. Elise Flynn Gyore, who worked in the capitol, but not with Bocanegra, said he aggressively reached under her blouse and menaced her while at a popular night club, following her around and making her fear for her safety.
The incident was reported to the Assembly Rules Committee in 2009. Mr. Bocanegra was elected in 2012 without any disclosure to his constituents regarding what he had done because the committee covered the incident up.
According to the Fresno Bee, “women in his district got nowhere after they asked the Assembly Rules Committee to make public the sexual harassment complaints it received about him (Bocangra.) How is protecting someone the committee concluded was a predator in the public’s interest?”
Now there is Janie Sustaita’s and Joel Rosales’ cases. They were both former District Directors for Assemblyman Devon Mathis, one in 2015 and the other in 2017. According to the Visalia Times-Delta (VTD) Ms. Sustaita said she reported to the Assembly Rules Committee that she was “routinely bullied, degraded and subjected to overt sexism by Mathis himself and by others while he stood by.”
She said Mathis told her “she was too sensitive because she is a woman, threatened to replace her with a man and told her that a man would do a better job than her and that she did not need a raise because her ‘boy toy’ boyfriend could support her.”
She also said that Mr. Mathis’ new chief of staff, Justin Turner, called her a “bitch” and a “snake.”
Mr. Rosales reported to the rules committee that Mr. Mathis would describe in what position and for how long he would want to have sex with certain women whose names would come up in conversation in the office.
Mr. Rosales also reported Mr. Mathis continually threatening his job.
After Ms. Sustaita was written up for being disloyal to the assemblyman she wrote to the rules committee again saying, according to the VTD, “they win – I quit.”
The Assembly Rules Committee human resource department chief told Ms. Sustaita that none of her complaints could be substantiated, and responded to her quitting by saying, “I’m sorry to hear you had a difficult day” and said she would be willing to work with Sustaita on the issues. “If, however, you’ve determined that your preference is to resign at this time, I will process your resignation in our personnel system.”
Ms. Sustaita’s response, according to the VTD, was, “Human resources is not out to protect employees, they are protecting the Assembly.”