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“BUILDING COMMUNITY” RULES!
“To sue or not to sue PG&E?” This is my community service announcement for Sept. 13, 2010.
This morning, I woke up with an “Aha!” moment: MOHINDER MANN. I know that in the case of the San Bruno explosion, victims and displaced families would be looking for advice and referrals re: good personal injury attorneys. I know someone really well: Mohinder Mann of http://themannlawfirm.com/ in San Jose, CA. (Yes, this is definitely my testimonial about someone whose work and achievements I believe in — and you don’t have to live in San Jose to check him out.)
On Sunday, Sept. 12, I had an opportunity to reconnect with Mohinder Mann, the chair of our South Bay multi-ethnic coalition, when his daughter led our team (through the ALS South Bay Walk; see http://bit.ly/9cV5Ev) in raising funds for The ALS Association. Mohinder Mann’s wife, Robin, suffers from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). I have personally volunteered with this amazing social justice advocate (aside from his work in other community causes such as the fight to keep JTS Northside Community Center under the Filipino leadership that built it) that Mohinder’s colleagues have honored him with very special awards and recognitions in the past many years.
Do you remember the Toyota auto recall case?
“February 9, 2010 – The Mann Law Firm was one of the first law firms in the country to sue Toyota for the sudden acceleration of one of its vehicles in 2007, which ended up killing Mr. Troy Johnson. More than two years ago, federal investigators in the United States discovered that some Toyota vehicles accelerated unexpectedly, the Washington Post reports… In October 2009, Toyota announced that it was recalling approximately 3.8 million Toyota and Lexus autos because their floor mats could trap the gas pedal, causing sudden acceleration. Then in January 2010, Toyota advised the NHTSA that approximately 2.3 million vehicles in the United States have a defect that can cause the accelerator to stick.”
You might be asking me why I am referring my friend, Mohinder Mann. How do you say “thank you” to someone who tirelessly volunteered and helped my Filipino American community stand up for its rights after being unjustly treated? By sharing with other people that you know someone who will fight for their rights — after astute due diligence, of course.
GETTING TO KNOW MOHINDER MANN
Thank you for the prayers! What a roller-coaster ride it has been these past five years — with many lessons learned and true friendships cherished… Greg B. Macabenta, veteran journalist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Ang Panahon and Filipinas Magazine, who witnessed Ben Menor’s September 18 sentencing, wrote this special news article. To contact Greg, email him at [email protected]
CHARGE, 2 OTHER CHARGES TO BE DISMISSED
Sentencing rescheduled October 9; charge to be expunged
The much-awaited verdict on the three cases filed against San Jose, California community leader, Ben Menor, which was to have been handed down on September 18, was moved back to October 9, following an agreement between the District Attorney’s Office and Menor’s counsel, Charles Hendrickson of the Public Defender’s Office, before Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Ray E. Cunningham, that Menor would plead No Contest to one charge, while the two other cases would be dismissed.
The postponement was because the Department of Probation was not prepared to present the necessary documents that would have facilitated the immediate resolution of the cases.
According to Hendrickson, in a briefing to media after the proceedings, the dismissal of two of the three cases against Menor had earlier been offered by the DA’s office on condition of payment of restitution of $46,862 and of Menor pleading No Contest to the charge of making a false statement on a financial report.
At the September 18 court appearance, Menor’s counsel informed Judge Cunningham that a payment of $51,000 had already been made to Santa Clara County by Menor, thus satisfying the first condition. Other fees and charges account for the excess payment.
Hendrickson further explained to the media that the No Contest plea would result in the charge being reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, with no jail term, and in its being immediately expunged. Based on the provisions of Section 1203.4 of the Penal Code, that would amount to a dismissal of the case.
“In effect,” said Hendrickson, “it would be as if the case were just being initiated and the defendant were to enter a plea of not guilty.”
The cases against Menor were filed by the City of San Jose based on allegations that Menor, as President and CEO of the Filipino-American Senior Opportunities Development Council and Executive Director of the Jacinto Tony Siquig Northside Community Center, had used funds and facilities of the City and of the center for unauthorized and illegal purposes, and that he had submitted false financial reports concerning payment of services rendered by the center.
One of the charges was for grand theft, allegedly because Menor had used City and center funds for the August 2002 national conference of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), a national organization of which Menor is a member. The other charge, also for grand theft, alleged that Menor had arranged for services that benefited his parents at the expense of the center.
Based on the evidence at hand, the District Attorney’s office offered to have the two grand theft cases dismissed, provided that Menor paid restitution amounting to around $14,000 for the case involving NaFFAA and around $32,000 for the case involving his parents, or a total of $46,862.
The other condition was for Menor to plead No Contest to the third case, which alleged that Menor had unlawfully over-charged the city for services rendered to the center’s clients. An uncertain reading and interpretation of the rules on charging for services may have been the reason for the agreement to reduce the charges from a felony to a misdemeanor and its immediate expunging from the court records.
The Jacinto Tony Siquig Northside Community Center, on North 6th Street in San Jose, is a 16,500 square ft. facility consisting of the center itself and an apartment for senior housing. It serves all ethnicities, although up to 80 percent of beneficiaries are of Filipino descent.
Menor led the efforts to raise the money – totaling $8 million for the center and $17 million for the senior housing – from grants from the City of San Jose, Santa Clara County, the state of California and other sources, including funds made possible by the Community Reinvestment Act. Construction of the facility began in 2001. It was inaugurated in 2003.
Menor had been connected with the Filipino-American Senior Opportunities Development Council since 1993. He left in 2006 when the charges against him were filed.
July 25, 2008
I have kept quiet for so long because I believe that the “sacred scales of justice” will allow truth to prevail in the cases against Ben Menor and the Filipino American Senior Opportunities Development Council Inc.’s Board of Directors (a.k.a. FilAmSODC).
As a former staff member and consultant of FilAmSODC, Inc./JTS Northside Community Center, I was there when the storm (that eventually resulted in the Ben Menor and FilAmSODC legal cases) started actively brewing and I was there when the Friends of JTS Northside Community Center, led by Mohinder Mann and Annie Dandavati, supported the fight to retain its deserving Filipino management in 2005-2006. Since FilAmSODC had been serving Filipino and Indo-American communities — with plans to serve other ethnic groups in San Jose — the multi-ethnic coalition (that I love and support) headed by these Friends was a constant inspiration to the senior citizens, the youth, and other stakeholders served by the center. Recently, I came across the myspace.com website of the Mabuhay Cultural Club of Independence High School, wherein the young members honor Ben Menor as one of their heroes. Rodel Rodis wrote about these Filipino CRABS in 2004 (who started it all!) — which, of course, the latter used to spin and brand themselves “The Silicon Valley CRABS.”
What I am writing here today is a continuation of my PERSONAL INSIGHTS AND THOUGHTS which started with the Flames of Consciousness and A Perspective on Filipino Consciousness at the NaFFAA Y2K2 Empowerment Conference in 2002. I had also celebrated my employment with a story in my column at Manila Bulletin USA in August of 2003, “Filipino Consciousness at Work.”
Yesterday, I checked in by phone with Ben Menor since I wanted to know what happened to his “sentencing” date in court on July 24, 2008. The judge gave him an extension of 30 days to come up with the balance of the required restitution. Ben told me that he had raised over 50% of the required restitution. That was good news.
Later on last night, I found out that Joseph Lariosa, a supposedly credible Filipino American journalist based in Chicago, had written an article about Ben Menor’s day in court. Ben shared with me that Joseph had indeed asked him for his comments or Ben’s lawyers’ comments BUT before the lawyers could respond, Joseph e-mailed him with his published news story and wrote Ben, “Please let me know if you have problem accessing it. Please let me know also if there is any correction to be made.”
Duh, what would my fellow media practitioners say about this?
Here’s what I’m thinking. “Really, Mr. Lariosa! How interesting it is that you couldn’t wait for any corrections (or fact checking) BEFORE sending your supposed credible article for publication. You are just as bad as Bobby Reyes of MabuhayRadio.com, who I do not support and who I have publicly denounced as a NON-journalist.”
Joseph Lariosa’s article about Ben Menor’s case today is INCORRECT, MISLEADING, AND DECEIVING.