Prosecutors have filed two misdemeanor charges against county Supervisor Leticia Perez regarding a conflict of interest between her role as supervisor and the California marijuana industry in what's believed to be the first time any elected official has been criminally charged in Kern County. 

Perez voted on a marijuana issue in which her husband "was receiving financial profit for his work within the County of Kern on cannabis interest," according to a probable cause declaration filed in Superior Court.

District Attorney Lisa Green said Tuesday the charges carry a maximum sentence of up to six months for each count, and one of the counts carries an additional potential punishment barring her from running for an elected office for four years. It would be up to a judge to decide whether to impose that ban. 

Perez, 41, is set to be arraigned Wednesday.

Green declined to go into detail regarding the investigation as the case is ongoing. She said Perez is not legally required to step down due to the charges. 

Perez's attorney, H.A. Sala, said the evidence does not support any alleged violations on the part of his client and she will not resign. 

"The Kern County District Attorney's Office does not have a single email, text message, transcript or any reliable statement that Supervisor Perez's decision on the cannabis vote was in any way compromised," he said. "Supervisor Perez has always executed her official duties objectively, legally and in the best interests of her constituents and the residents of Kern County."

Sala said the prosecution has based its case on "unreliable, unsubstantiated and conclusory statements" and he intends to vigorously defend these charges. 

The first count states Perez "did make, participate in making or attempt to use her official position to influence a governmental decision in which she knew or had reason to know she had a financial interest." 

On Oct. 24, 2017, Perez was the lone vote against a motion banning commercial cannabis. Her husband, Fernando Jara, owns Savage Communications, a consulting firm that has done work on marijuana policy for several clients.

In May, following comments regarding her potential conflict of interest, Perez announced she would no longer vote on issues related to the local licensing of cannabis operations.

The second count against Perez states that on April 3, 2017, she failed to file a statement "disclosing her investments, interests in real property, and income during the period of 2016," also a misdemeanor.

The investigation also looked into allegations made against Supervisor Mike Maggard but found no wrongdoing on his part.

“I am grateful for the thorough investigation by the District Attorney's office and the thoughtful conclusion from the DA exonerating me of these false accusations," Maggard said in an emailed statement to The Californian.

"We now need the justice system to follow its process to conclusion in order to remove corruption, self-serving influence, and suspicion from our local government. The people of our community deserve nothing less."

Jara has said he got a job early in 2017 doing research for statewide medical marijuana interests who were considering an investment in the Central Valley.

He said he did profiles on marijuana businesses, the politics of the issue and potential for investment. He said he would also help arrange meetings between people in the industry.

He said he didn't take any money for work in Kern County. 

During a news conference held at his H Street office Tuesday, Sala compared Perez's case to that of another local politician who faced conflict-of-interest accusations.

City Councilman Bob Smith was accused of attempting “to use his official position to influence a governmental decision in which he had a financial interest” by addressing the Bakersfield Planning Commission on Dec. 4, 2014, on behalf of a client, the SB/RBLI Land Co. LLC.

Smith agreed with and did not contest allegations made by the Fair Political Practices Commission’s enforcement division, and paid a $3,000 fine.

Sala noted that Smith, a "Caucasian male who is politically popular," was not prosecuted in connection with the same allegations faced by his client, who is Hispanic. 

"What does that tell you?" Sala said. He added the accusations may be politically motivated, and investigative documents show the DA's witnesses are unreliable and accuse each other of lying. 

Sala said all sorts of allegations are contained in the investigative documents, which were not available in court Tuesday. Sala said one witness alleged a county supervisor — not Perez — was paid $30,000 for a "yes" vote on the cannabis issue. 

Sala said his client will not be commenting on the allegations. 

Perez, elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2012, is serving her second term in office. 

She graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2000 and worked as a community banker at Wells Fargo Bank until 2003 before heading to the Valparaiso University School of Law, where she graduated with her law degree in 2006.

She worked as a deputy political director for the United Farm Workers of America in Keene from 2007 to 2008 when she joined the Kern County Public Defender's Office.

Jason Kotowski can be reached at 661-395-7491. Follow him on Twitter: @tbcbreakingnews.

(12) comments

Fram Smith

Perez will receive an extensive and exhaustive investigation and prosecution by Lisa Green. No expense will be spared, no stone left unturned. I wish she had given the David Silva case, the same kind of careful detailed consideration she is giving these 2 misdemeanor charges. But that only dealt with 7 members of the local law enforcement community beating a man to death, and then having KCSD investigators violate constitutional rights of those who videotaped the beating. I would almost feel sorry for Perez, if husband did not have the ethical grid work of a tapeworm...

Concerncitizen

For many that have complained that our Kern County District Attorney's office were not holding local officials accountable in the past this is a good thing. I am certain a very thorough review at multiple levels was done before these indictment charges were filed. Frankly this gives me hope that our KCDA is doing their jobs. Certainly it will go to a jury trial so we shall see what the evidence is that they have. You want as a citizen to see autonomy and hold your public servants accountable. Recently we have seen this has not been necessarily the case referring other recent high profile situations with other public agencies within our County.

Fram Smith

First some house cleaning. Will REMUDA please put down the Lucky Strikes and the bottle of Old Crow, and please stop the "cut and paste" of the same tired old "cannabis is the devil's weed" argument. We are writing about Perez and Jara here. PLEASE STOP BEING A BORE AND NO MORE CUT AND PASTE... BE ON TOPIC. In any case, it would not surprise me if Jara was marketing influence to cannabis business folks, without telling his wife. It is a behavior that is well inside this man's wheelhouse. If so, she has got to know who the torches and pitchforks are for.

yorkies2014

somethings wrong here..it's just so very Jeff Sessions......oh the good old Obama days.... before Putin got his Boy Elected

Ed

Here is a new job for her and her Husband

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Concerned Citizen of Bakersfield

She is a dirty a politician as they come, and her husband is guilty of Stolen Valor - he NEVER served in the military! DRAIN THE SWAMP

Ed

Maybe Dolores Huerta will take her job...

REMUDA

Are gov revenue $$'s (recreational or medical/pain) more important than your safety? Sometimes YOU get to decide:

a. a possible increase in burglaries or robberies of business selling marijuana, due to the large quantity of marijuana and cash on hand.
b. an increased number of impaired drivers on the roadway due to marijuana impairment.
c. an increase in calls to emergency services due to people possibly having negative reactions.

( https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/exploring-pros-cons-marijuana-legalization-expert-karina-maxey-mba )

POT (Cannabis sativa aka marijuana): In the United States, the use and possession of cannabis is illegal under federal law for any purpose, by way of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Under the CSA, cannabis is classified as a Schedule I substance, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, thereby prohibiting even medical use of the drug is a US-listed hallucinogenic that is illegal Marijuana -- Etymology -- The term, originally spelled variously as "marihuana", "mariguana", etc., originated in Mexican Spanish.

Period . . . !

Ramon del Oeste

My first thought was this was done because Ms. Perez voted against the wishes of law enforcement. Nothing in this article indicated any evidence of wrongdoing or "corruption".

clsoca

A bit sad....she had a promising future. She needs to resign at once and concentrate on defending herself and becoming an ethical person. Corruption like this will make the entire County Board of Supervisors appear dirty.

Godfather528

How bout we wait for some evidence prior to throwing the baby out with the bath water .

clsoca

Why did she recuse herself on future cannabis votes in May 2018. That's evidence enough for her to move on.

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