learned on Wednesday afternoon that Santa Ana City Attorney Joseph Fletcher has referred the matter of improper votes by Council members Sal Tinajero, Michele Martinez, and Claudia Alvarez to the Orange County District Attorney for review.

The votes in question appear to violate Santa Ana Municipal Code section 2-107. The law prohibits members of the city council from participating in discussions and voting on matters benefitting campaign contributors who have contributed more than $250 during the year preceding the vote. The crime may be prosecuted at the discretion of the City Attorney who can choose between filing an administrative citation for an infraction or a misdemeanor charge that is punishable by a fine of $1,000 and 6 months in county jail.

Orange County District Attorney spokesperson Farrah Emami told me that the City Attorney had declared a conflict approximately a week ago and referred the matter to the DA for review to determine if any charges are appropriate. “A review is the first step in the process,” Emami said. When a concern or complaint is raised with the District Attorney they review the matter first to determine whether an investigation is necessary. It is possible that the matter of Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarezvote on One Broadway Plaza may be referred to the California Attorney General’s office for review since Alvarez is an Orange County Deputy District Attorney.

I commend Fletcher for recognizing the conflict and referring the violations to the DA without public prompting. That of course didn’t deter me from making sure that the DA had all the information we have found during our investigation, including the most recent discovery I wrote about on Monday.

I am a bit amused however that Mr. Fletcher found himself unable to respond to my questions from Tuesday September 21st asking:

  • Is your office looking into the improper votes of Santa Ana Council members Sal Tinajero and Claudia Alvarez who voted on the revisions to the One Broadway Plaza project at the mid July meeting of the City Council? Both members participated in this 4-0 vote after having received campaign contributions from Agents of Voit in apparent violation of municipal code. This vote was in addition to the votes regarding the Station District (6/07/10) and the reduction/moratorium of soccer fees (9/7/10).
  • Given that you report directly to the City Council, why would your review of this matter not be a conflict of interest for you?

When I asked him on Friday when he might have an answer he responded; “I cannot predict at this time.”

UPDATE: Sean H. Mill, the political attack dog whose leash is held by Tinajero, Alvarez, Martinez, and Pulido is trying to turn my coverage of this issue into a matter of race baiting. Nope, that’s not the case. Sal Tinajero is the one who at a recent council meeting said that the comparisons of Santa Ana to the city of Bell were attacks based on race. Mill also tries to equate the actions of Tinajero, Martinez, and Alvarez, who all received contributions in advance of voting on matters related to donors, to Councilman Benavides receiving a contribution after a vote (Martinez took money both before and after her votes on the Station District). Benavides has returned the contribution of $500 he received the last day of the semi-annual filing period (June 30, 2010) and has not voted on any project related to that donor since receiving and returning the contribution.

We’ll let you know when we hear more from the DA’s office.