Kern Supervisor Perez charged for alleged conflict of interest while casting pot vote

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

    BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) – Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez is facing a pair of misdemeanor charges after she cast a vote on marijuana regulation while allegedly having a financial stake in the cannabis industry, District Attorney Lisa Green announced Tuesday morning.

    The DA’s Public Integrity Unit investigated the conflict-of-interest claims over a four-month period, Green said.

    The supervisors voted 4-1 last fall to prohibit commercial cannabis activity, including cultivation. Perez was the dissenting vote.

    Perez's husband, Fernando Jara, has reportedly worked as a consultant for marijuana businesses. Perez recently announced she would abstain from any future votes involving marijuana to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

    Green said one charge is “essentially the conflict of interest count.” That count stems from the cannabis vote last October, and Green said Perez used her position to try and influence a governmental decision in which she knew she had a financial interest.

    The DA said the other criminal complaint alleges Perez failed to disclose her investments and income as required by law.

    H.A. Sala, the attorney representing Perez, later held a news conference to say the evidence is unreliable and the prosecution is discriminatory.

    “The Kern County District Attorney’s Office does not have a single email, a single text message, a transcript or any reliable statement that Supervisor Perez’s decision on the cannabis vote was in any way compromised," Sala said. "Supervisor Perez has always executed her official duties objectively, legally and in the best interest of her constituents and the residents of Kern County.”

    At her news conference earlier in the morning, Green disputed the notion that the prosecution was politically motivated.

    “The evidence is what led us to these charges,” the DA said. “It has nothing to do with political persecution.”

    Meanwhile, the DA also investigated allegations against fellow Supervisor Mike Maggard. He's been the target of political corruption claims, including bribery, surrounding cannabis. He was recently accused of taking a campaign contribution from a pot shop and covering it up.

    Green said investigators found no wrongdoing with Maggard.

    Green said Perez, if convicted, won’t be legally required to step down from the board. But one of the charges, if it results in a conviction, would allow the judge to bar Perez from running for public office for up to four years.

    Each count carries a maximum sentence of six months confinement.

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