Features & Columns

George Shirakawa FRIENDS AND FAMILY: Ruben Flores, a close friend of George Shirakawa, helped run the supervisor's campaign in 2008. Flores also happens to be the brother of Shirakawa's recent bodyguard, provided by the county sheriff's office.

School Buddies

Halfway through our conversation, Shirakawa's chief of staff, Eddie Garcia, interjects. Late filings for obsolete committees are not uncommon, Garcia notes. I agree while informing him that the Registrar of Voters also has a delinquent file under Garcia's name for his 2008 race to be an East Side Union school board member—a role he assumed after Shirakawa vacated the position.

"For my school board stuff?" Garcia says. "You're kidding me."

Garcia notes two heart attacks he suffered in 2010, but his missing semiannual disclosure filings date back to the last half of 2008, all of 2009 and the first half 2010.

"Hmm," Garcia says. "OK. I'll go double-check."

"That doesn't look good, Josh," Shirakawa says to me. Both men then erupt in laughter. Within a minute, however, Shirakawa turns serious again:

"One thing I will tell you I learned from my dad, Josh, and I'm gonna end it at this: It's funny when you see, particularly people in this community, who raise money and make decisions and they're effective leaders. When there's people of color, like me, if you don't raise money you're not effective. But if you raise money, well, then they're influenced wrong. So, there's a double standard there. I'll tell you that. My point is I'm not going to apologize about raising money. Not doing that kind of stuff. Because if you don't, you're considered not effective; and if you do, you're overly influenced."

Shirakawa may not understand the seriousness of the campaign violations and seems caught off guard at the suggestion of a troubling trend during the interview.

"What trend is that?" he asks.

"That you're horrible with paperwork."

"That speaks for itself," Shirakawa says and busts into laughter.

Shirakawa has missed deadlines that extend from political office to his personal life. On July 20 of this year, Shirakawa finally closed out his 2006 school board filings and paid a fine of $400 to the county Department of Revenue. (The reason for this payment could not be confirmed by press time. However, Shirakawa's recent school board committee filings show a cash balance of $2,854.49, which has yet to be accounted for.) In 2008, a lien was put on Shirakawa's home for a late garbage bill. Liens were also put on his home in 2003 and 2004 because of unpaid federal tax returns. How Shirakawa came up with the money to loan his campaign $78,100 remains a mystery.

"I'll tell you, I told you, I made a mistake," he says about his late forms. "I apologize to you and anybody else. And I take full responsibility. I will take responsibility. I have to pay a large fine, a huge fine. I'm not happy about that, not because I'm concerned about you and somebody else talking about that. I'm not happy I put myself in a position. All I can do is get better."

Again, Garcia breaks into our conversation to talk about his own late filings for school board, noting that these races don't involve much money being raised.

"I raised zero money and expended zero money," Garcia says. "I'm pretty sure I closed out that account. That was the last one I did after the election in 2008."

"Actually," I say, "you had about $12,000 left over." The precise cash balance was $11,843.

"You gave me some [money], too; it's on there," Shirakawa says, jumping back into the conversation. "And I gave some [money] to Eddie in the past, by the way. I think you should have a meeting with Eddie on his stuff." Again, both men start laughing.

In a later conversation, Garcia tells me he sent his school board forms to the Registrar of Voters but they must have been lost in the mail. "You know how the U.S. Postal Service is," he adds.

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