When an FBI special agent turned up at CityBeat last week to serve a grand-jury subpoena, my first thought was, "I knew it! Peter Holslin is the Geezer Bandit."
When our music editor wasn't led away in handcuffs, I was
disappointed perplexed. The agent wouldn't let us examine the subpoena since no one in the office at the time had access to our financial records. Editor Dave Rolland directed the agent higher up the management ladder.
Today, I finally got a look at the document. Requested by the U.S. Attorney's Office and approved by a U.S. magistrate judge, the subpoena requests a copy of a $7,047 check paid to CityBeat in May 2007, along with all related invoices and correspondence. When the company bookkeepers tracked the check down and cross-referenced it, we realized we had another clue in a larger mystery playing out in East County.
The check was from Jillian Hanson-Cox, who recently resigned from the El Cajon City Council after her home was raided by the FBI. So far, the feds have kept the press in the dark about the nature of the investigation.
According to CityBeat publisher Kevin Hellman, Hanson-Cox purchased space in the paper for a half-page advertisement for the 61st Annual Mother Goose Parade. The ad ran nine times in CityBeat over several months, featuring the faces of two dozen B- and C-list celebrities who would appear at the parade, including Mario Lopez (Saved by the Bell), Erik Estrada (CHiPs) and Duane Dog Chapman (Dog the Bounty Hunter).
In 2007 and 2008, Hanson-Cox served as the volunteer president of the El Cajon Valley Mother Goose Parade Association, which administers the fairy-tale-themed event for children. According to financial disclosures on record with the California Department of Justice, those years represent both the high point and the beginning of the downward trajectory of the non-profit organization.
In the first year of Hanson-Cox's leadership, the parade brought in a record $215,116 in revenue, including $40,000 in government grants. However, the next year, the association increased its spending by 13 percent, while its fundraising dropped by 20 percent. Before Hanson-Cox, the association had banked away $109,000 in savings. After, it only recorded $37,000 left in its reserves.
In the years since, the parade has yet to recover. As of 2010, the organization reported only $8,100 in assets and $63,000 in revenue.
Whether the Mother Goose Parade is central to the FBI investigation, only the grand jury knows.
What we can say is that this probably won't have a fairy-tale ending.