Let's talk turkeys
Less than stellar performances by some of Pasadena’s top leaders in 2013
Nicholas “Benson” Mkandla — Hands-down our Top Turkey this Thanksgiving, onetime District 3 City Council candidate Nicholas “Benson” Mkandla can’t catch a break. In February, we reported that the then-Rev. Dr. Benson not only has five separate names, but also four different birthdates. We also learned that Benson doesn’t have a doctorate degree, as he claimed, nor did he graduate from any divinity or theology school. Heck, his real name isn’t even Benson; it’s Mkandla. Shortly after those revelations, things went from bad to worse for Mkandla. In the past few months he’s had city code enforcement officials hounding him for the allegedly shoddy condition of the halfway house that he and his wife run in Northwest Pasadena, and the cops are on still on his tail over threats Mkandla allegedly made against one of his female tenants who told police about his multiple identities. That tip ultimately led to his arrest for two $25,000 traffic warrants under his real name. Those are now cleared up, but he still faces court for the alleged threat.
Hugo Schwyzer — Coming in a close second, Hugo Schwyzer, the self-described “male feminist” teacher at Pasadena City College who introduced young, predominantly female students to the exciting world of Internet pornography, is no longer working for the college. Admitting to being under the influence of prescription medication before causing an injury accident on the freeway, and admitting to having sex with at least one female student in his office, Schwyzer also told his Facebook “friends” that he is deeply disturbed mentally and taking medication to battle depression and other demons. Of course, no one at the college is saying exactly how this class, which featured appearances in class by such attention-grabbing porn stars as Jessica Drake and James Deen, ever got on the PCC schedule. But it’s not there now, and neither is Schwyzer.
APU President Jon Wallace — Apparently Azusa Pacific University President Jon Wallace never thought of what Jesus would do if asked whether a woman who now identifies as a man should continue teaching at a school where the very words of Jesus and his Father are taught to students. Perhaps that’s because he knew it would be nothing remotely like what was actually done to 47-year-old Heath Adam Ackley, formerly Heather Clements, who taught theology at Azusa Pacific University. After 15 years of faithful and faith-filled service to the school, and over a strong show of student support to leave the professor alone, Ackley was let go. Like the old song says, if Jesus were here he’d tell the APU president to his face, man, you’re some kind of sinner.
The Rev. Allen Williams — The First African Methodist Episcopal Church pastor found himself in a little bit of hot water last summer after an audit indicated $33,000 in inappropriate credit card spending, the unauthorized purchase of five cell phones with bills totaling $4,000, and thousands of dollars in unauthorized payroll expenses. Other questionable church fund expenditures made or approved that year by Rev. Williams included $16,369 for computer tablets, Kindle Readers and laptop computers, $3,527 for oil company credit cards, and $1,409 that went toward auto services. The problem was financial record keeping was so shoddy that the church’s audit committee was not able to conduct an analysis or audit review of the central checking and all other bank accounts. Williams eventually apologized as lay church leaders began implementing safeguards to prevent such financial improprieties.
Glendale Mayor Dave Weaver — Nothing against any of our friends of Japanese descent, but the Japanese Imperial Forces of the Second World War were pretty brutal in their conquest of China, Korea and Southeast Asia. During that side of the bloody conflict, which began with the occupation of Korea in 1910, then continued into Manchuria in 1931 and lasted until 1945, millions of Chinese civilians were slaughtered, many with swords. In those times, the soldiers took “comfort women,” young girls who were snatched from their families and thrust into lives of prostitution. Maybe if Glendale Councilman Dave Weaver knew this history, a time which modern-day citizens of Japan and their leaders have tried desperately to forget, he wouldn’t feel so strongly against having a statue honoring the innocent women and girls who suffered due to this wanton military oppression. May we recommend Iris Chang’s “The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II,” published in 1997, the 60th anniversary of that massacre.
PCC President Mark Rocha — Facing a tough economic outlook and overloaded with students hoping to get into a four-year school, Pasadena City College President Mark Rocha had the answer: End winter session. Wait. What? No! That wasn’t what hundreds of students wanted to hear. But that’s what happened, dashing their hopes of getting the classes needed to advance. While that was going on, the school newspaper, under the guidance of adviser Warren Swil, was breaking major stories about the protests, some critical of the administration. Rocha again had the answer: Get rid of Swil over a flimsy charge of sexually harassing a male student. Wait. What? No! Wrong again. The winter classes, which made it easier for students to matriculate to universities, are over. Now we’re left waiting to see if the next mistake will also be compounded by not reinstating Swil.
Ruben Hueso — Veteran teacher Ruben Hueso was a favorite to win a newly created seat on the Pasadena Board of Education, which last year switched over from at-large elections to district-only contests. Hueso was facing two other candidates, both with less than $500 in campaign contributions between them. But instead of reaching out to potential future constituents for funds, Hueso leaned on his brother, a sitting state lawmaker from San Diego, and his elected deep-pocket friends in Sacramento, collecting more than $30,000 — all from folks like former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, also of San Diego and state Sen. Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles. In the end, Hueso failed to avoid a runoff in the March election and the following month lost to the heavily outspent Tyron Hampton.
Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck — City Manager Michael Beck has done a pretty good job of running the ship of state under some daunting economic conditions. However, his role as the leader of City Hall came into question earlier this year when the otherwise innocent mailing of a notice about an upcoming ice cream social went awry. What Beck did not know was the invitations contained what many City Hall workers considered to be a racially insensitive depiction of Oscar Grant, the 22-year-old African-American man who was shot to death on Jan. 1, 2009, by a Bay Area Transit guard while being detained on the landing at Fruitvale Station. The image of Michael B. Jordan, the actor who played Grant in the critically acclaimed film “Fruitvale Station,” appeared under the portion marked “I scream,” with the image of Jordan in character eating an ice cream cone squarely occupying the center of the online document. Beck said he did not approve the invitation before it was emailed to employees and ordered that it be redone and that an apology be issued.
Naader Shagagi – The Pasadena yoga instructor nearly missed the list, as the announcement of his conviction on four counts of sexual battery occurred on Nov. 13. The owner of Yoga Kingdom Sanctuary will be enjoying a lifetime registration as a sex offender due to his conviction on four misdemeanor counts of sexual battery by fraudulent representation. Seems Shagagi, 56, promoted “Curative Yoga” and private “healing” sessions in which he repeatedly groped and touched his victims, while claiming he was a “healer” who had cured others of breast cancer as well as being a “messenger of gods.” No doubt he’s been getting close to his deities pending his Dec. 5 sentencing.