Kern assessor admits wrongdoing in political endorsement

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) The Kern County District Attorney's Office is investigating retiring county Assessor-Recorder James Fitch after he admitted to endorsing his potential replacement on an official department letterhead, which violates state and local laws.

Fitch told Eyewitness News on Wednesday that he mistakenly sent the endorsement for assessor-recorder candidate Jon Lifquist, a 25-year employee at his office.

"I incorrectly used my press release that I typically send out to the public, and it has a county seal on it," Fitch said. "I'm not a professional campaigner. I'm not a professional politician. I wasn't really conscious of these things as I should be."

The District Attorney's Office was unable to comment on any specifics regarding the ongoing investigation. However, an official with the state's Fair Political Practices Commission told Eyewitness News the incident appears to be a misuse of public funds.

It is unclear what type of punishment Fitch could face, but he said his act was not intentional.

"I don't see any advantage to using a county seal," Fitch said. "If it had been a mail-out, maybe the public would've been fooled.

"I don't think you're fooled that this a county endorsement," he added, regarding how the letter was only sent to local media.