I first became aware of Dr. Dominguez in 2009, not long after I’d arrived in Chula Vista, but before I became a student. I became aware of him as one of the governing board members, and not one I felt was good for the school. I ended up meeting him in mid-2010 after he’d decided to run again for his board position. We crossed paths several times, met each other at several events and got to be on a first-name basis. I liked him. I genuinely liked him, even though I rarely agreed with him.
We weren’t close, but we were friendly. Every time we saw each other we took a few minutes to talk.
Back in 2010, as a citizen – not a journalist, not yet a student – I took an active role in trying to help throw Southwestern College governing board members Jorge Dominguez, Yolanda Salcido and Terri Valladolid out of office. Like a majority of people who actually knew them, I thought they were bad for SWC. They were bad for the faculty and employees, they were bad for the community, and most of all, they were bad for the students.
Over the previous year or so, I’d turned my personal blog, the Writer’s Washroom, into a very political blog, which became quite well known in the community. And – I’ll be perfectly honest here – I did every single legal thing I could to get those three voted out of office.
I was not nice to Jorge. If he said or did something that I thought was dumb, or that others would think was dumb, I posted it. When he appeared to be falling asleep at board meetings, I took photos and posted them online. I wanted him out of office as badly as I wanted Yoli and Terri out.
I was hard on all three of them, and I have no regrets doing it. They WERE bad for SWC.
But even as it was going on, I found I could still talk to Jorge. We were on opposite sides and we weren’t friends then, but he was civil. He was civil and friendly, and he was able to put up with a lot of things that most people couldn’t handle.
When it was over Jorge and Yolanda were gone. Jorge and I didn’t speak for a few months. But the next time I saw him we were friendly. In fact, we always got along, even when I was coming down hard on him publicly. When the DA showed up one morning to search his home, looking for evidence of criminal behavior, he spoke to me about it, both on the record and off.
When he was in court and I was there to cover it for The Sun, we talked. We talked about my health – because he’d heard that I had troubles. We talked about his wife’s health – because I’d heard she had similar issues – and his family. We never talked about his health, I’m afraid, because he always seemed so blasted healthy.
In fact, I think the first day I actually saw him in court and had a chance to speak with him, we met outside the courtroom in the hallway. We immediately started talking – but NOT about the case. I was there to cover it and he was there as a defendant. I refused to bother him about it because I liked Jorge and I hated to see him in such a situation. As we were talking about this, that or the other, his lawyer spotted my press badge and came screeching over, all waving hands and frantic noises, trying to stop him from talking to me. I started to say something, but Jorge spoke first, and told his own attorney, “This is a friend of mine. We’re talking about more important things.”
Even after all that had gone on and with my role in his life as an opponent, a community gadfly and finally a reporter, and he still considered me a friend. That says much more about the quality of man that Jorge Dominguez was than it does about me.
I think he was a hell of a good guy and I like to think we were friends. I opposed him, but I respected him at the same time. He believed in what he was doing. There was no stench of malevolent opportunism that came from whoring out his board votes for kickbacks from contractors and construction companies. He didn’t have the virulent odor of Yolanda or Terri, who sold out their positions for fat campaign war chests. I think he voted his heart and what he actually believed. You can disagree with that all you want. I did, as did a majority of the voters of the district, but you can’t disrespect him for doing what he genuinely believed.
During the trial Jorge and I agreed to go out when it was over and get a drink. It was to be my treat. I didn’t know what was going to happen, and frankly, I didn’t care. I never got that chance. After the judge’s findings, I couldn’t reach him to speak to him, either professionally or personally. We never got that drink. I’m sorry we didn’t. I genuinely liked the man. It was hard not to.
Furr is a former Senior Staff Writer for The Sun. In 2013 he was named National College Reporter of the Year for his coverage of the South Bay Corruption Case.