Two executives at a California industrial property company claim that they paid Supervisor Leticia Perez’s husband $25,000 to arrange for meetings with county officials so their company could expand marijuana activities into the county.
The new details provide context into the Kern County District Attorney's case against Perez, who is charged with two misdemeanors relating to conflict of interest violations between herself and marijuana interests.
One of Perez’s charges stems from a vote she participated in on Oct. 24, 2017, in which she was the only supervisor to vote against banning commercial cannabis in the county.
The charge states that Perez “did make, participate in making or attempt to use her official position to influence a government decision in which she knew or had reason to know she had a financial interest.”
Perez is also charged with failing to disclose “investments, interests in real property, and income during the period of 2016.”
Both charges are misdemeanors.
In signed statements to the DA’s Office, Industrial Partners Group principles Martin Smith and Stephanie Smith said they entered into an agreement with Perez’s husband, Fernando Jara, to identify opportunities to establish licensed cannabis operations in cities and counties throughout central California in exchange for payment.
Both Martin and Stephanie told the DA’s office that Jara arranged for a meeting with Perez in her office, which took place April 5, 2017.
Later that year, the pair said they also met with Kern County Planning and Natural Resources Director Lorelei Oviatt.
The meeting appears to have taken place at a time when Industrial Partners Group was looking to invest in Kern County properties to be used for marijuana growth, sale and processing.
Ben Eilenberg, a lawyer for the company, did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did H.A. Sala, a lawyer representing Perez.
The southern California company has been reported to own around 2 million square feet of industrial space, some of which is leased to cannabis companies.
Last summer, a company associated with Stephanie Smith purchased a plot of land in Kern County that was within a proposed “marijuana activity zone” northeast of Bakersfield that would have been legalized if a ballot measure, Measure K, had passed last November.
Reporting at the time showed that Industrial Partners Group was largely responsible for funding the campaign to get the measure passed.
Ultimately, Measure K lost 52 percent to 48 percent.
The DA’s office said in a court filing that Perez knew that her husband was involved in marijuana advocacy activity through his consulting firm, Savage Consulting, and was aware that he received payment to do so.
The DA’s office also said that Perez deliberately misled Kern County Counsel when she attempted to obtain a legal memo that could shield her from allegations of conflict-of-interest violations.
According to court documents, Perez told the county’s attorney that her husband “did not work for IPG” and “did not lobby any members of the Board of Supervisors.”
“Both of those representations are demonstrable falsehoods,” the DA’s said in court filings.
The County Counsel, who is not identified in the court documents, later told DA’s office investigators he may not have had all the facts when he issued his conflict-of-interest memo.
“The fact that Supervisor Perez deliberately misstated the facts to County Counsel demonstrates a consciousness that any vote by her on the issue could be unlawful,” the DA’s office wrote.
Perez’s trial was recently delayed. A rescheduling hearing is supposed to take place May 10.