At the close of a 90-minute trial in San Benito County Superior Court on Nov. 13, Judge Marjorie L. Carter ruled in favor of the Community Foundation for San Benito County, affirming the facts as presented: Mitchell Dabo, owner of a Hollister liquor store and president of the San Benito County Board of Education, systematically drained more than $640,000 from a charitable trust for his own purposes, depriving non-profits of money for vital services to county residents in need.
Dabo did not show up for the trial. He did not contest the facts. “I made a big mistake,” he said in a statement last week. “I am so sorry for everyone that is affected by this.”
Apologies don’t ease the pain of consequences, nor absolve wrongdoers of responsibility.
Dabo, who was first elected to a position of public trust as a county school trustee in 1994, claimed he took “full responsibility” for his actions “in not securing the money.”
Dabo has thus far failed to take acknowledge any personal, legal responsibility for violating state probate laws. He also has not taken any moral responsibility for denying a pair of old friends, now deceased, of their opportunity to leave a charitable legacy for their home town.
It remains to be seen whether he takes financial responsibility for paying the court judgment ordering him to pay approximately $1.8 million to the community foundation.
It’s business as usual for Mitchell Dabo. He still has his liquor store business. He still has his home in downtown Hollister. He still has insurance licenses, for life, accident and health policies. He still has businesses—Mitch Dabo Associates and Dabo Financial Group. He is still president of the county board of education.
There are other responsibilities related to the issues raised by the civil court judgment against Mitchell Dabo.
The Hollister Police Department has the responsibility to enforce the law—state and local criminal statutes. Money was taken from an elderly woman’s trust account while she was still alive. There currently is no investigation whether crimes were committed.
The district attorney has the responsibility to prosecute lawbreakers, and is the chief law enforcement officer of the county. District Attorney Candice Hooper says she won’t initiate any investigation whether Dabo committed any crimes unless the police first bring her some evidence. The Free Lance delivered evidence from the civil court case to her office this week.
Both the district attorney and the police department say they don’t have the resources to even investigate, let alone prosecute, Mitchell Dabo. If the possible theft of $640,000 doesn’t justify spending money to investigate, what does? How big or bad does a possible crime have to be to warrant an investigation, especially when facts are obtainable and the suspect has admitted to some of them?
The Hollister City Council and the county Board of Supervisors have the responsibility to provide adequate resources to law enforcement. At this point, there is no indication they have received any requests for special funding to investigate Mitchell Dabo.
The county Board of Education has a responsibility to set policies and oversee the spending of tax dollars for the education of the children in San Benito County. They are entrusted with this responsibility by voters who assume that their school trustees are honest, law-abiding individuals of high integrity and personal ethics, with strong commitments to the communities they serve. At present, they see no need to discuss, inquire or investigate whether one of their own has violated this public trust.
The Free Lance, as your community newspaper, has a responsibility to report and write about all this. We have a responsibility to ask questions, and seek answers, especially when it comes to the actions of our public servants. Because we take this responsibility seriously, we will continue to remind the entities and individuals here of their responsibilities.