When the late Joe Serna Jr. became mayor of Sacramento in 1992, he was so jazzed he had the Spanish word "Alcalde" painted on his City Hall parking spot.
It means mayor, and The Bee ran an item about it that angered some people to the dismay of Serna, who was stung that a harmless nod to his ethnic roots would be taken as a sign of disloyalty to America.
He called me to ask how he should handle it in the media something he never did before or after and I said that if I were him, I would not take the bait.
I thought about that last week when Serna's daughter Lisa, a former aide to Mayor Kevin Johnson, became the focus of a criminal investigation for allegedly using her city-issued credit card for personal purchases.
The bait thrown my way by some readers is that if I had any integrity at all, I would slam Lisa Serna-Mayorga in the paper to "prove" as someone suggested to me on Facebook that I wasn't "partisan toward people of color."
Some old feelings suspicions of people with Mexican roots endure through the years, as if some of us were conspiring to take California back for Mexico.
My secret code name in this struggle is: Nacho Grande.
I responded to my Facebook friend by writing: "I'm going to be 50 in November and I've found happiness in realizing that some are going to think what they think no matter what I write."
If white columnists write almost exclusively about white people, do they get accused of being "partisan" toward white people? They really don't.
Lisa's dad certainly didn't think I was "partisan toward people of color."
Around the time he became mayor, I wrote a scathing article about the late Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers union for the front page of The Bee.
Chavez, whom Serna idolized, wrote a long letter to my old boss in which he asked for a retraction and sent some serious fury in my direction.
In The Bee archives you'll find old, faded clippings of early Latino reporters who wrote very tough articles on early Latino leaders in Sacramento.
A long time ago in my business, you did have to "prove" things, and it was a big head-trip that really isn't an issue in my newsroom anymore in my opinion.
So what of Lisa Serna-Mayorga?
When she went to work for Johnson, and was issued a city credit card, she signed a piece of paper that said: "use of the Purchasing Card for any purpose other than City business is a crime, and will be prosecuted."
Even if no criminal charges are filed, based on what we know, she is culpable of a gargantuan lack of judgment that boggles the mind.
As Ryan Lillis reported last week, a city review found that she had charged $3,000 in personal charges to her city credit card money she then reimbursed. "Further digging found another $6,000 in personal charges in previous years, the sources said. Serna- Mayorga reimbursed the city another $6,000 before resigning July 19, according to the sources," Lillis wrote. He also reported that the money was spent on, "a trip to Disneyland, gasoline and groceries."
And she didn't think this would be a problem?
What is the biggest source of public anger in Sacramento today? Public money spent in ways it was not intended.
Look at the front page of The Bee in recent weeks. The California state parks department spending hundreds of thousands to buy out staffers' vacation time. The same agency sitting on $54 million in hidden assets while closing parks. State legislators thumping their chests about belt-tightening, then giving already well-paid staffers some juicy raises.
Serna-Mayorga is small potatoes compared with those cases, but she put herself right in the middle of a narrative of political turmoil at Sacramento City Hall and the state Capitol at large.
I don't know her very well but feel for her as a human being because I've tasted the embarrassment when my institution took public hits as former colleagues lost their jobs for ethical transgressions.
The chips have to fall where they may, but the older I get, the more I feel for many of the folks on the wrong end of stories in my paper no matter their ethnicity.