Bakersfield · Politics

Kern Co. DA, Supervisor Perez settle conflict of interest case

A criminal case stemming over Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez’s votes on marijuana regulations will likely be headed for a dismissal after Perez and the Kern County District Attorney’s Office agreed to a settlement, the two sides announced Thursday.

Perez was charged with using her position as a Supervisor to influence a government decision that she knew she had a financial interest and failing to update her statements of economic interest to reflect revenues her husband accrued while lobbying on behalf of the cannabis industry.

In 2017, Perez was the lone dissenting vote against Kern County’s ban on commercial cannabis. In the months leading up to that vote, Perez’s husband, Fernando Jara, was retained by two different marijuana operators as a lobbyist.

As part of the settlement, Perez agreed to those facts which became the basis of the Kern County District Attorney’s criminal complaint.

In exchange for an eventual dismissal of charges, Perez will pay $30,000 in penalties to a community charity focused on homelessness or drug rehabilitation as a return of funds that Jara reaped while representing marijuana interests.

Separately, Perez is required to pay a $4,000 fine to the Fair Political Practices Commission, complete 100 hours of community service, complete an in-person ethics course on government ethics, and amend her statement of economic interests related to Jara’s marijuana activities.

In a statement issued Thursday, Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer laid out the rationale for the extraordinary task of prosecuting a County Supervisor.

“When the penalties that may be imposed by the Fair Political Practices Commission are not enough to fully address violations of the public trust, criminal prosecution is appropriate to ensure that there is a strong deterrent for actions that run counter the public’s trust and ethics laws,” Zimmer said. “In this case, the criminal prosecution has successfully achieved our goals of ensuring that Supervisor Perez is not permitted to profit from the conflict of interest she engaged in. Moreover, today’s resolution requires clear admissions to the facts underlying the charges, ensuring that voters can make educated choices about the supervisor’s actions. In addition, the resolution provides both punishment and rehabilitation measures to ensure future compliance with ethics laws.”

Per the stipulation with the District Attorney’s office, Perez’s case will be dismissed 180 after completion of the various conditions of the settlement.

H.A. Sala, the attorney representing Perez similarly claimed victory on behalf of his client, who faced up to one year imprisonment and a four-year ban from running for public office.

“The stipulation of facts was agreed to in exchange for a complete dismissal upon the other conditions being satisfied,” Sala said in a statement to KBAK. “We are entirely confident that all conditions will be satisfied and that the charges will be dismissed.”

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.