Supervisor indicted for conflict of interest

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Supervisor indicted for conflict of interestFor perhaps the first time in Kern County history, an elected official is being indicted on criminal charges. Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green is seeking two misdemeanor charges against 5th District Supervisor Leticia Perez for an apparent conflict of interest in her support of the marijuana industry.

According to a declaration filed in Superior Court, Perez voted on marijuana issues when her husband, Fernando Jara of Savage Communications, was profiting as a consultant for clients in the marijuana industry.

Green gave an overview of the charges in a press conference Tuesday morning. The first count against Perez states that she “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.”

The second counts states that she failed to disclose “investments, interests in real property, and income” during 2016.

According to Green, the charges carry a maximum sentence of six months for each count. Perez could also potentially be barred from running for an elected office for four years. However, she is not legally required to step down at this point in the process.

Green declined to discuss the case in detail, citing ongoing investigations.

Perez was arraigned on Wednesday.

In October, Perez was the only supervisor who voted in opposition to banning commercial cannabis. However, she disclosed her potential conflict of interest in May, saying that she would no longer vote on issues relating to the local licensing of cannabis operations.

Perez’s attorney, H.A. Sala, challenged the charges, stating that there is no evidence that supports the claims, and suggesting the investigation is racially motivated.

“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 that a “caucasian male who is politically popular” was not prosecuted in connection with similar allegations. “What does that tell you?” he asked.

Pictured: Kern County 5th District Supervisor Letecia Perez. — Courtesy Photo

Story First Published: 2018-07-20