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Leticia Perez rejects critic's allegations she broke rules ahead of big pot vote

Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez speaks during a county board meeting Tuesday, April 10, 2018. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

Supervisor Leticia Perez on Tuesday was the subject of sharp criticism during public comment from David Brust, co-founder of an activist group that lobbies for keeping pot shops away from homes.

He presented a series of findings that he said were gleaned from public record requests and several witnesses. The allegations were long and complicated but boiled down to what he described as wrongdoing ahead of the big cannabis vote in October.

The supervisors voted 4-1 to ban all cannabis sales. Perez cast the lone vote in support of the industry.

"Leticia Perez sold access to her office in a pay-to-play scheme," Brust said.

Brust told the board that Perez's husband, Fernando Jara, is a paid political consultant, acting on behalf of different marijuana businesses. If the couple profited from pot, Brust says, Perez should've recused herself from all votes about it.

"Perez and Jara received thousands of dollars in payment from the cannabis industry during the 12-month build-up to the EIR and ordinance vote," he said. "Supervisor Perez had a clear conflict of interest."

Eyewitness News spoke with Jara by phone Tuesday afternoon to ask about his reported business dealings. He offered the following statement:

"Please connect with county counsel, who has reviewed all the documents. These are the same things that have been reviewed over and over again. This is retaliation for the redistricting."


Perez provided support to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund's successful effort this year to redraw the supervisor boundaries. The organization argued before a federal judge that the lines were gerrymandered to divide Latino population centers. David Couch was the political loser when the lines were redrawn. His solidly Republican district became a solidly Democratic district when considering voter registration data.

Given a chance in the meeting to respond to Brust, Perez said she's being smeared.

"I'd ask the public to please consider the source, Mr. David Brust, a former employee of Supervisor David Couch, who has waged a personal campaign against me and my family for half a decade," she said.

Couch spoke up after those comments, seeking to clarify that Brust had previously been employed by his office to produce a newsletter. He said any advocacy Brust does related to marijuana policy or Perez isn't connected to Couch in any way, and he didn't ask for it.

Eyewitness News spoke with County Counsel Mark Nations after the meeting Tuesday. He confirmed that he spoke with Perez "months before" the pot vote in October and didn't come away concerned about any potential conflicts of interest. If there is any new information, Nations suggested Brust take his evidence to the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Brust said he will.

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