Bakersfield · Highlight

DA to turn over documents of potential political motive in Leticia Perez case

Kern County Judge Thomas Clark issued a turnabout on the Kern County District Attorney’s office and, namely, former District Attorney Lisa Green in her decision to prosecute Supervisor Leticia Perez for alleged conflict of interest.

Perez’s legal team sought evidence that may demonstrate Green’s decision to prosecute was motivated by political considerations. Green supported her Assistant District Attorney, Scott Spielman, to succeed her.

It is alleged Perez supported eventual-District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer, which she and Zimmer have denied.

In a ruling issued Monday, Clark ordered the District Attorney’s office to produce documents related to the prosecution of Perez that may expose potential political motivation by Green.

Documents include written material between Green, Spielman, or any other individuals involved in Spielman’s failed 2018 campaign that mentioned Perez; written materials from interviews between DA’s Office personnel concerning political motives or animus on the part of Green related to Perez’s alleged support of Zimmer; and writings between the DA’s Office and any member of the Board of Supervisors related to violations of California’s Political Reform Act by Perez.

The crux of the case against the Kern County Supervisor is a 2017 vote in which she cast the lone “No” vote against a motion to ban commercial marijuana sales while her husband, Fernando Jara, lobbied on behalf of marijuana interests.

Two marijuana investors have already come forward stating they paid $25,000 in fees to Jara to act as a Kern County consultant on potential projects.

Perez has pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor counts related to conflict of interest and failure to file financial disclosures.

During a hearing on Friday, Perez’s lawyer, H.A. Sala, argued that the genesis of the charges occurred after Spielman lost the election in June 2018.

He also noted that there was racial disparity in ethics issues among Kern County Supervisors, pointing to the lack of criminal charges in 2016 when Bakersfield City Councilman Bob Smith illegally addressed the city’s planning commission on behalf of his engineering firm.

Smith faced a $3,000 fine from the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission.

While Clark issued the ruling to allow Perez’s legal team to acquire potential evidence of politically-motivated prosecution, he noted that no finding of actual motivation or malice had been made.

The District Attorney has until Aug. 16 to turn over the documents to Clark, who will review them before a hearing to determine if they are to be turned over to Perez’s legal team.

Alex Tavlian
Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.