BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Kern County judge has found Supervisor Leticia Perez produced “some evidence” prosecutors discriminated against her in filing two misdemeanor conflict of interest charges because a city councilman who had faced similar charges was not criminally prosecuted.
Judge Thomas S. Clark, in a ruling filed Monday, said Perez had provided evidence the charges against her, in fact, may have been the result of retaliation by former District Attorney Lisa Green for not supporting Green’s candidate to succeed her as top prosecutor.
As a result, Clark has ordered the District Attorney’s office to turn over a number of documents to Perez and her legal counsel, including the following:
- All writings between the DA’s office and any member of the Board of Supervisors concerning any alleged violation of the Political Reform Act by Perez.
- All writings between Green and then-Assistant District Attorney Scott Spielman and any member, employee, deputy district attorney or volunteer involved in Spielman’s 2018 campaign containing any mention of Perez.
- All writings produced as a result of interviews conducted by any investigator or person employed by the DA’s office or peace officer regarding possible political motives or retaliation on the part of Green against Perez.
A highly divisive election
Green endorsed Spielman to succeed her upon her retirement. Perez, while not making a public endorsement of Spielman’s opponent, Cynthia Zimmer, made at least one financial contribution to Zimmer’s campaign.
It was “generally perceived in the public arena” she supported Zimmer, according to the ruling.
And those who opposed Green’s candidate may have been retaliated against, according to the document.
“There is some evidence that District Attorney Lisa Green took some actions during the campaign with respect to employees of her office that would appear to be taken in retaliation for or as a reaction to apparent support given by those employees to the Zimmer campaign,” the document says.
The charges against Perez were filed within six weeks of the election and three-and-a-half weeks after the certification of the election, the court filing says. The alleged criminal actions by Perez took place far earlier — on or about April 3, 2017, and Oct. 24, 2017.
“The timing of the filing of the criminal charges, very shortly after (Spielman) learned that he had a lost a close election and very shortly after the district attorney learned that her favored candidate had lost a close and hotly-contested election is a fact that can support the appearance of a political factor in the charging decision,” Clark wrote.
Conflict of interest allegations
The charges against Perez stem from her husband’s ties to the marijuana industry and her being the lone supervisor to vote to legalize medicinal cannabis back in 2017.
The allegations against her, and their repercussions, have been compared to those of City Councilman Bob Smith. He admitted to using his position to influence the city planning commission to approve his company’s application for a subdivision of land and was fined $3,000 in 2017.
No criminal charges were filed against him despite the conflict of interest violation being “remarkably similar” to the allegations against Perez, Clark wrote.
The next hearing in the Perez case is scheduled Friday.