By Mark Gutglueck
(May 20) David Moore, the public issues activist whose brutal treatment at the hands of government officials and the sheriff’s office highlighted the corruption festering within San Bernardino County’s governmental structure and forever earned him a level of respect among his dissident colleagues, has died.
Moore, 60, passed away in Loma Linda after a protracted period of declining health, which worsened after he suffered a debilitating stroke.
Moore, an academic who found employment at various levels within the Adventist communities and institutions of Glendale and Loma Linda, often fixated on arcane areas and issues relating to the public’s access to information and the efforts he perceived government and corporate officials engaged in to limit the distribution of that information. One project he pursued was compending lists of areas throughout the country where the Zip Codes and city references for addresses used by the U.S. Postal Service for mail delivery did not match the actual city in which the address was located.
It was while he was engaged in another similar undertaking that Moore was accorded the harsh treatment for which he would become so well known. In the 1990s, while networking with other San Bernardino County public issue activists and open critics of county government such as Bob Nelson, Jeff Wright, Shirley Goodwin, Larry Halstead, and Marjorie Mikels, Moore set about obtaining from San Bernardino County a comprehensive list of phone numbers for the employees of all of the county government’s departments and divisions. In that effort, he approached then-San Bernardino County Supervisor Dennis Hansberger’s chief-of-staff, Jim Foster. While Foster initially made a show of cooperating with Moore’s request, he grew resistant after it became apparent Moore intended to share the phone number roster with the coterie of public activists who Foster believed would use it to obtain information that might dispute higher ranking county officials’ statements or version of events. On July 28, 1999, Moore confronted Foster, insisting that the information which Foster was then asserting to be privileged and confidential be made available to county residents. Foster grew argumentative, cursing at Moore. Moore responded by stating that Foster was a disgrace to the county that employed him, and repeatedly saying that Foster should be fired, at one point using the term “terminated.” Foster, utilizing his position of authority, summoned the sheriff’s department, claiming Moore had threatened him, including making a death threat. When a witness, a county employee, confirmed Moore had spoken openly about having Foster terminated, Moore was arrested on suspicion of threatening a public official.
Things did not go well for Moore, thereafter. During his arrest, sheriff’s deputies, in an effort to garner favor with Foster, beat Moore into submission. After he was jailed, sadistic deputies, having learned of the beating administered to Moore during his arrest, took that as license to abuse him further. In the jail he was slammed to the floor numerous times. Moore’s leg was injured so grievously he would walk with a limp forever thereafter.
Meanwhile, the abuse he had been subjected to was learned of by the outside world. Sheriff’s officials, fearing legal action against the department might be imminent, pressured the district attorney’s office to pursue a case against Moore to “inoculate” the department from a civil suit. This dovetailed with efforts by Foster, again using his status as a high ranking county official, to persuade the district attorney’s office, then led by Dennis Stout, who was at that time intent on maintaining a cordial relationship with the sheriff’s department as well as Hansberger, to file felony charges of threatening a public official against Moore.
Moore would remain in jail for several months, defiantly refusing to plead guilty, subjected to continuing abuse by his jailors. Refusing to waive his right to a speedy trial, Moore was put on trial in October of 1999, with the prosecution gunning to have him convicted of threatening a public official. Despite the use of perjured testimony by Foster and another county employee whose promotional fortunes were overseen by Foster, the prosecution was unable to obtain a conviction on that charge, when the jury voted unanimously to acquit Moore. But the prosecution layered two further charges into the case against Moore, and after returning the first acquittal verdict, the jury went back into deliberations and found him guilty of two counts of making statements which Foster interpreted as threats. At that point, however, the judge, Michael Dest, apparently convinced Moore represented no threat, spared him any further jail time, crediting him with time served and good behavior.
While San Bernardino County officials had succeeded in “officially” labeling Moore as a criminal, those he associated with, his fellow public issue activists, hailed him as a hero. Among these were Bob Nelson, who had become something of a legend himself for having been jailed repeatedly for exceeding the three minute speaking limit at planning commission, city council and board of supervisors meetings, and Jeff Wright, whose arrest record would eventually surpass that of Nelson for the same activity. Nelson, whose soft-spoken and respectful approach in seeking to reason with the county’s decision makers succeeded only in angering them, would sedately submit to arrest by the sergeant-at-arms. Wright, whose fiery style consisted of challenging and verbally assailing elected leaders for the quality of their decision making and conflicts of interest, openly questioned their honesty and integrity and would hurl even more pointed vitriol at the elected officials as the sheriff’s department deputies would handcuff him and cart him off. Over the period of a decade, he was given progressively harsher sentences for overrunning the three-minute limit when speaking his mind before the board of supervisors or San Bernardino City Council, ultimately landing an 18-month jail sentence, all of which he served.
Despite the efforts by San Bernardino County’s top ranking elected and staff officials to discredit the likes of Moore, Nelson and Wright, the dissidents would find vindication, of sorts, when events overtook those whom they had questioned, challenged or spoken out against. Former supervisor Jerry Eaves, a favorite target of Wright, was indicted on both state and federal political corruption charges and was forced to leave office as a consequence of his eventual conviction. Former county chief administrative officers Harry Mays and James Hlawek were likewise indicted and convicted of taking bribes, as was former county treasurer Tom O’Donnell and county investment officer Sol Levin. In 2005, six years after his confrontation with Moore in which he had seemingly come out on top, Foster was forced to resign as Hansberger’s chief of staff after it was revealed that he had used his position to get first dibs on and then purchase, utilizing a “straw buyer,” i.e., an undisclosed intermediary, county land that was declared surplus and put up for sale. And district attorney Dennis Stout, whose office was able to temporarily curry favor with the sheriff’s department by prosecuting Moore and getting an attenuated conviction against him, saw his relationship with the sheriff’s department sour when his prosecutors targeted Eaves, who was closely aligned politically with the sheriff. When Stout’s investigators were stepping up their inquiry into Eaves’ questionable activities trading votes for campaign cash and allegedly accepting kickbacks along the way, sheriff’s department investigators began to surreptitiously record the phone conversations Stout, his assistant district attorney, Dan Lough, and his chief of investigations, Barry Bruins, were having with one of Eaves’ political rivals, Rialto City Councilman Ed Scott. Transcripts of those conversations were then leaked to the media, which resulted in adverse publicity that suggested the district attorney’s office was being used for partisan purposes. This adverse publicity resulted in Stout being defeated for reelection in 2002.
Though he found support from the activist community after his ordeal, Moore never fully recovered from what had occurred. He allowed his driver license to lapse because he feared that driving left him vulnerable to the sheriff’s department during traffic stops. Over the years he became increasingly isolated, moving out of San Bernardino County to live across the county line in Riverside. He would venture out only occasionally, using public transportation or the assistance of a small group of his loyal friends.
Universally, his friends and acquaintances pointed to his poor diet, which he maintained throughout his life, as a major factor in Moore’s physical decline. In the final months of his life, as his health deteriorated rapidly, those friends were vigilant in seeking medical assistance for him, checking him into Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he received several blood transfusions in a futile effort to save him.
A memorial service is being held for him tomorrow, Saturday May 23, 2015 at 7:30 p.m., at the house of worship located at 2625 Avalon Street in Riverside, where several congregations, including that of the local Korean Seventh Day Adventist community, holds its services. Moore’s friend, Ed Bishop, will perform Mansion Over The Hilltop, How Far From Home, Little Brown Church In The Vale and Railway To Heaven in Moore’s memory.
By Mark Gutglueck