Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Castaneda has been in-vestigated by the District Attorney’s new Public Integrity Unit, set up to investigate allegations of criminal misconduct among elected officials, candidates for office and campaign officials in San Diego County. After a year the investigation found no criminal wrong doing, yet charges have been filed against Castaneda.
The charges filed by District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ office are for allegedly lying about whether or not he thought about buying one of the Sunbow condominiums where he was living in east Chula Vista. 13 felony perjury counts, each with a possible $10,000 fine and up to four years prison time, were filed basically because Castaneda said “no” several times as to his intent in buying a condo at Sunbow. The District Attorney’s office construes this as lying during the Grand Jury testimony based on the fact that at least one witness testified that Castaneda inquired as to the price of a condo. This case stemmed from an investigation into whether or not Castaneda, who voted on the Sunbow conversion, received a benefit from living there as a result of his vote - there was no criminal wrong doing found in this regard.
Two unrelated misdemeanor counts related to omissions on his economic interest statements were also filed and as we understand it these are reporting errors that can be easily, if not already, fixed.
We have to ask ourselves why is the District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis so aggressively pursuing this case when there is no criminal activity, no quid pro quo, no deals being made, there is nothing of substance here, yet she wishes to continue spending taxpayers money, Castaneda’s lawyer fees were being paid by the City of Chula Vista, in order to pursue what Castaneda may have been thinking!
In the United States of America we have the freedom to think whatever we like; we can think the most outrageous things possible without fear of repercussion. Until we act on these thoughts there is nothing illegal about your thoughts. Thoughts are supposed to be personal only for you to know and yours to share only when you wish to.
Bonnie Dumanis is venturing into dangerous territory when she starts pursuing criminal charges based on what people or politicians are thinking. It would be a scary precedent if this case goes any further. We would hope that a judge would throw this case out at their first opportunity.
But there is more going here than meets the eye. Why would District Attorney Dumanis expend so much time, effort, and money on a non-case, especially when there are so many other avenues this two man investigative unit could spend its time looking at for wrong doing?
The integrity unit investigates cases only when an allegation has been made against a politician. So far this unit has only two reported cases, the first being against Jason Moore, a former Chula Vista mayoral aide, for taking pictures of a campaign function while on city time and now Castaneda. Not exactly the type of record that would reflect the focus of this agency of investigating “the most serious allegations of government corruption throughout the county.”
From our perspective it looks like this investigative unit is being used as a political tool and gives credence to Castaneda’s belief that this is nothing more than a “Political Witch Hunt.” The fact is that this is the impression that we are now left with which leaves a stain on Dumanis’ integrity unit.