October 2, 2023
Audio Features
Bernstein With a Twist
This is a weekly program with commentary on current issues.
When talk turns to the mass production of crooked public officials, San Bernardino County's No. 1 durable good (and bad), people ask how this county ever became so deeply immersed in a "culture of corruption."

The blame can be laid at the decomposed feet of Francisco Dumetz. Dumetz was born in Spain and became a Franciscan missionary. The critical date of local concern is May 20, 1810, when he dubbed the Inland area he was visiting "San Bernardino."

Back then, it seemed entirely appropriate. May 20 happened to be the Feast of St. Bernardine of Siena, the great 15th century Italian preacher. Forty-three years later, "San Bernardino County" was born, which seemed fitting, too. But there was trouble ahead.

San Bernardino County public officials have never been able to live up to the stature of their county's namesake. Bernardine wasn't like these guys.

Oh, he loved to preach, so maybe he did have a little politician in him. But Bernardine was a straight arrow, denouncing everything from gambling to usury to various forms of vanity, especially as evidenced by dress and social behavior. His sermons featured actual "bonfires of vanities," where people burned "objects of temptation."

So, no, Bernardine wasn't the type who'd ever be accused of accepting a $12,000 Rolex and coast-to-coast travel from a developer, and failing to report it. No one ever charged him with possession of meth or destroying public records. Or taking a bribe. If he ever met a prostitute, it's not hard to imagine what he would have told her: "Stop it."

In short, Bernardine, later St. Bernardine, never could have been elected to public office in the county that bears his name.
Episode Date: March 27, 2009
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