For months I’ve been hearing that Santa Ana City Councilman Sal Tinajero feared a tough challenge for reelection in his Ward 6 district. Prior to the close of filing it looked like Tinajero would face at least one challenger, Thomas Gordon. Thomas Gordon has been somewhat of a gadfly over the past few years having challenged the Mayor in 2006, and consistent in his vocal criticism of the current mayor and council, particularly Tinajero. At the close of the filing period, four candidates had submitted nominating papers for Tinajero’s Ward 6 seat. They were Thomas Gordon, Helen Martinez, Nam Pham, and Sal Tinajero. Gordon was ultimately disqualified due to having an insufficient number of valid nominating signatures.
Councilman Tinajero approached OC Weekly investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley with his story of a conspiracy to split the Latino vote in his race. Like any great investigative reporter, Moxley took up the challengeÂ and reported Tuesday evening on what he had found. One key thing that I noticed from Moxley’s story is that he allowed Tinajero to present his case, and the witnesses and documentation to support his case. What was missing from the piece was a clear indication ofÂ how anyÂ laws were allegedly broken. Moxley was careful to not draw any conclusions on his own and let the reader decide.
The documentation represented in the story show a relationship of some sort between Martinez and other members of her household, as they all signed Thomas Gordon’s nomination paperwork. Tinajero presented what he and a witness claim are emails that indicate, if indeed they are not phony email printouts, that Martinez and Gordon were in communication regarding her candidacy for city council.
None of the information presented in Moxley’s story, no matter how damning, what not from my take evidence of any illegal activities by any of the players Tinajero accuses. in an updated version of his story, Moxley identifies the code language that Tinajero believes was broken.
“Any person who files or submits for filing a nomination paper or declaration of candidacy knowing that it or any part of it has been made falsely is punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000) or by imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months or two or three years or by both the fine and imprisonment.”
“Any person who commits fraud or attempts to commit fraud, and any person who aids or abets fraud or attempts to aid or abet fraud, in connection with any vote case, to be cast, or attempted to be cast, is guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment for 16 months or two or three years.”
Let’s break these down 1) Any person who files or submits for filing a nomination paper or declaration of candidacy knowing that it or any part of it has been made falsely is punishable… There is no indication in Tinajero’s allegations as to what part(s) of Helen Martinez’s nomination papers were false. Without that specificity, there is not even a reason to suspect a crime, much less allege one.
2) Any person who commits fraud or attempts to commit fraud, and any person who aids or abets fraud or attempts to aid or abet fraud, in connection with any vote case, to be cast, or attempted to be cast, is guilty of a felony… This section does not even apply to the nomination and candidacy of Helen Martinez. This section of the Elections Code pertains to actual voting fraud, including encourages fraud related to the casting of a ballot (vote) in and election. Since the election has not even occurred, this does not even seem to apply.
What I think the real motivation for Tinajero here is that he hopes to deflect attention away from his own votes on the City Council that appear to have violated city laws because of the proximity of those contributions to his official acts. Even if there was a conspiracy, as alleged by Tinajero, to get Helen Martinez to challenge Tinajero and split the Latino vote allowing for a Gordon win that conspiracy has failed to achieve its objective. Thomas Gordon is not on the ballot in this election. If Helen Martinez were actually a name placed on the ballot to split the vote, then why is she running an active campaign?
I’m glad that Moxley wrote his story because it shows that Sal Tinajero is chasing boogie men inÂ a game of “Fantasy Politics.” He is chasing these imaginary enemies because he is afraid to face the fact that he is his own worst enemy. The only people than might be coming after him are the voters of Santa Ana. VotersÂ who believe the decisions of their elected officials should not be for sale to the highest campaign contributor.