Wendy Bucknum Campaign Update
Part 13, Character qualities do not include “cover-up”
Wendy Bucknum is a professional housing lobbyist running for a Mission Viejo council seat in November. Articles in this series have identified Bucknum’s lobbyist job, her ethical lapses, her stream of campaign dollars from special interest and the list of elected officials endorsing a lobbyist.
During the April 21 council meeting, Bucknum made her customary appearance at the public microphone as a cheerleader for various causes. This time, the issue was the Nadadores’ contract for its use of the city-owned swimming facility. Throughout the discussion, support of the Nadadores’ value to the community was unanimous. No cheerleader was needed, particularly Bucknum jumping up and down.
The council majority of Frank Ury, Dave Leckness, Trish Kelley and Rhonda Reardon couldn’t be bothered to negotiate the contract. Rubber stamps in hand, they voted 4-1 (Councilwoman Cathy Schlicht dissented) to extend the city contract for 20 years, without knowing the full details of the contract. The terms and conditions are to be determined later and signed by Mayor Kelley without further council discussion. Voters should react at the first opportunity by dumping anyone from office who votes for a contract without knowing what’s in it.
The main discussion wasn’t about the contract. Councilwoman Rhonda Reardon asked the head swim coach, Bill Rose, to come up to the microphone to answer questions about “the elephant in the room.” She was referring to the sex scandal that resulted in one of the coaches being banned for life from working with young swimmers. The OC Register published an article in March 2013 about Coach Daniel Dusenbury’s long-term sexual relationship with a teenage member of the swim club, http://www.ocregister.com/articles/dusenbury-499847-swimmer-swimming.html
The article’s opening paragraph addresses any question of allegations: “Former Mission Viejo Nadadores coach Daniel Ad'm Dusenbury has been banned for life by swimming's national governing body after acknowledging having an inappropriate relationship with a female teenage Nadadores swimmer, the Orange County Register has learned.”
A DVD documenting Dusenbury’s sexual relationship with the teenager was provided to the Nadadores administration. Initially, the board of directors responded appropriately by placing Dusenbury on paid leave. However, the board then reversed itself by allowing him to return while under investigation. Parents of swimmers reacted by pulling their children out of the program. Dusenbury left on his own accord, and those who defended him or looked the other way – including Wendy Bucknum – further damaged the public image of the club.
Bucknum’s many statements at the public microphone include spewing character words and talking about her concern for children. When she had an opportunity to protect children from a sexual predator, she instead chose damage control. Last week, this blog published statements from a memo written by Bucknum in 2012 in which she referred to being criticized for “immoral and unethical behavior in the Nadadores alleged sex scandal.” It was not an allegation, and Bucknum’s attempt at damage control continues to this day.
Bucknum’s participation – real or exaggerated – in the many organizations in which she claims membership disqualifies her from serving on the council. Council members should make objective decisions that are free from conflict of interest. Bucknum’s entanglements with clubs, organizations and her employer’s housing industry have shown she doesn’t have the ethical basis to separate herself from special interest.