‘Diploma’ Raises Questions Anew Over Candidate


By Andrea Adelson | LB Indy

City Council candidate Jon Madison in his cafe.
City Council candidate Jon Madison in his cafe.

Embattled Laguna Beach City Council candidate Jon Madison, whose academic and professional claims cannot be independently verified, this week went on the offensive and produced one of two college diplomas that he says demonstrate the veracity of his resume.

Even so, the authenticity of the document Madison produced only raised more skepticism. The Cornell University diploma purporting to grant Jon Jay Joseph V. Madison a Ph.D. in horticulture on May 26, 1979, does not appear to bear the signature of Frank H.T. Rhodes, who was Cornell’s president in that year, nor that of David L. Call, who was dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 1979.

Graduation that year actually occurred on May 28, according to the May 23, 1979, edition of the Cornell Daily Sun, Ithaca’s daily newspaper.

And in 1979 the university discipline was known as the Department of Vegetable Crops, a precursor to the Department of Horticulture, according to citations in the 1979 scientific journal Horticultural Reviews and the university publication Cornell Chronicle and website Cornell Plantations.

Cornell’s registrar has no record of Jon Jay Joseph Madison attending the university, Cornell spokesman Joe Schwartz confirmed again Tuesday, Sept. 30, reiterating a similar query made by the Indy on Sept. 8 of a slightly different name, Jon Jay Madison.

In the statement released to supporters this week, Madison conceded he did not take the California State Bar exam and thus cannot properly describe himself as a lawyer, a claim he made in a sworn 2012 application for appointment to the city’s Heritage Commission.

The Cornell diploma, transcripts, voter registration and a birth certificate are available for inspection at Madison’s place of business, Madison Square & Garden Café, he said. Madison sent an image of the diploma to Stunewslaguna.com, a spokeswoman said.

Madison is one of seven candidates running for three open seats in the Nov. 4 election.

In a brief interview following a debate among candidates this week, Madison said a member of his campaign staff obtained the diploma and he could not account for the discrepancy in the signatures.

Madison said he is still seeking his diploma from the UCLA School of Law, but expects it shortly.

However, the law school’s registrar finds no record of enrollment by either Jon Jay Joseph Vincent Madison or Jon Jay Joseph V. Madison, spokeswoman Letisia Marquez said Tuesday, Sept. 30.

“I expect these documents to put an end to the speculation about my credentials, although there will be those who prefer to believe innuendo and rumor,” Madison said in a statement.

Madison moved to Laguna Beach in 1982 and in 1998 opened a restaurant in a restored 75 year old home. In the interim, he’s earned a reputation for generosity, hosting numerous fundraising benefits for nonprofits, and was appointed in 2001 to the city’s Heritage Committee, which advises the City Council about historic preservation issues.

“I hope that intelligent and open-minded voters will understand that a cross-country move in my young adult life, a deplorable and thorough identity theft by someone I once trusted, a clerical error on my voter’s registration record, and university records departments that lost track of me all combined to make it appear, with an assist from an opponent, that I deliberately misled the very people I am asking to entrust me with a public office,” said Madison’s statement, adding that the scrutiny has made him more determined to prove himself to voters.

Earlier in the week, two of Madison’s most prominent supporters reiterated their steadfast loyalty to him.

“He says the academic degrees will be coming,” Mayor Elizabeth Pearson said. “I believe he is what he says he is,” she said.

“Jon’s done so much for the community, I’m not concerned so much about his education,” said incumbent Kelly Boyd, 70, who is seeking a third, four-year term. He pointed out he attended “the school of hard-knocks,” and never obtained a college degree beyond junior college.

City Attorney Phil Kohn said he has received no formal direction from the City Council in reference to Madison’s 2012 sworn statement seeking appointment to the city’s Heritage Committee, where Madison described himself as a lawyer.

Kohn said there is no remedy within the city’s municipal code for falsifying a sworn statement. Perjury falls under a state statute and would be prosecuted by the district attorney, Kohn said.



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  1. Let’s see, a cross-country move, identity theft, clerical errors and incompetent university records departments at BOTH Cornell and UCLA–every excuse except “the dog ate my diplomas.” It appears that Mr. Madison is digging himself even a deeper hole by now producing a fake Cornell diploma.

    Representative democracy requires honesty and integrity from elected officials. Jon’s hubris, evasion, and misrepresentations should disqualify him from office in the minds of any rational voter. And the unwavering support from Mayor Pearson and Councilmember Boyd calls into serious question their fitness for office.


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