Former Canyon Lake City Councilman Frank Kessler pulls the oldest excuse in the book—the “Oops!” defense—out of his just-about-as-old ass during a plea bargain involving his use of a city-issued credit card to pay for a Hawaiian cruise. The 76-year-old Kessler and his 58-year-old wife, Suzanne, were accused of using the city card to pay for $6,239 in charges made on a cruise to the islands—including $3,000 for casino tokens and booze. Suzanne also used the card to pay a $2,000 debt to a collection agency. Kessler’s excuse? He mistook the city-issued card for one of his personal credit cards. Oops! Prosecutors accept the explanation in court today, which spares Kessler from a potential prison sentence of nearly five years—his old ass would have been an ancient 81 by the time he got out—but only in return for a guilty plea to embezzlement . . . oh, and repaying the money.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 25
Investigators are stumped by the discovery of a human skeleton discovered inside the chimney of a Fontana home, insisting they are unable to determine the identity of whoever once used those bones to get around. They’re searching for a match of DNA or dental records, and tamping down expectations by reminding people that such a match is a long shot because so few people submit those records, inferring that it may always be a mystery. Really? Gee, let’s see if we can solve it. These same experts can tell the skeleton belonged to a man who stood between 5-foot-5 and 5-foot-8 and had a robust build. They figure he was at least 45 years old—and probably older than 54. They estimate that he got stuck and died while coming down a chimney. And they can’t figure this out? Jiminy Christmas!
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26
David Allen, my upside-down doppelganger from the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, is off this week—and not by choice. He’s been furloughed. It’s part of a cost-saving strategy by the local paper’s Denver-based owner, MediaNews Corp., whose CEO William Dean Singleton has spent the last 20 years or so ruining journalism—building a media empire based on taking out huge loans to buy newspapers, and then paying for them by stripping the papers to their bones. But Singleton’s gotten stuck in the chimney, you might say. The economy has tanked at the same time huge balloon payments on those loans have come due. So he’s furloughing the few journalists he has left, which is why David Allen is at home. But Singleton hasn’t been able to furlough all his employees. The reporters at the not-so-far-away Long Beach Press-Telegram are all at work. That’s because, instead of just accepting Singleton’s ruthlessness, they fought him tirelessly and preserved their labor union. Now, Singleton can’t furlough them without opening himself up for a big, fat lawsuit. So the people of Long Beach still get a full-strength newspaper. Damn unions!!!
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27
Assemblyman Anthony Adams (R-Hesperia) may ultimately suffer for the anti-tax showboating he did while running for office in 2006—signing a pledge not to raise taxes, handing out dollar bills at gas stations as a one-man gas tax repeal—now that he is one of six Republican assemblypersons who voted for a state budget that raises taxes. There’s talk of a recall effort against Adams. That’s what he gets for trying to boil down the complexities of governing into a cheap campaign promise. But here’s hoping Adams survives the reactionary calls for his head—especially if he learned something from the experience. Sounds like he has. “I still hate taxes,” Adams tells the Hesperia Star. “We were facing a short-term crisis that can’t be fixed any other way.” The budget was eight months overdue and threatening to freeze and disintegrate the state. Among the bills California wasn’t paying were debts to the private businesses that do contract work for the state. “These are the small businesses Republicans love so much,” Adams says kinda sarcastically—and it sounds good coming out of his mouth. “I knew there would be a tremendous amount of anger, a tremendous amount of confusion” regarding his vote. “I went into this with my eyes open.” Let’s hope he keeps them open.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 28
Second Story Books closes today, leaving the people of the historic college town of Claremont Village without a bookstore—unless they go to prison. The Thoreau Bookshop, which is operated by the not-for-profit Claremont Forum out of a tiny rented space in the Packing House shopping district, is still open for business. But it’s only purpose is to send books to inmates.
SUNDAY, MARCH 1
In like a lion.
MONDAY, MARCH 2
Okay, so the skeleton in the chimney of that Fontana home turns out not to be St. Nick, but instead a 48-year-old transient named Henry Chavez Barriga, who’d been missing for nearly two years. That doesn’t make the ending of this story any happier.