Yesterday the preliminary hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for former OC Public Works executive Carlos Bustamante began in the courtroom of OC Superior Court Judge Kazuharu Makino. The former rising star in the Orange County Republican party and former Santa Ana City Councilman is charged with 12 felony and four misdemeanor counts of sexual battery, false imprisonment, stalking, and grand theft.
The hearing led off with testimony from DA Investigator Thomas Conklin who testified that Bustamante’s direct supervisor, former public works director Jess Carbajal, told him he “had no control” over Bustamante. According to Conkin, Carbajal “said it was tough to supervise an elected [official] who had an ‘in’ with the county CEO.”
From the Voice of OC:
One of the felony charges against Bustamante is felony grand theft of public funds in connection with his attendance at Harvard University’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government program.
He is accused of fraudulently receiving tuition worth more than $3,100 in county funds.
Bustamante initially agreed to pay 25 percent of the $11,200 tuition for the program himself and then later signed a letter stating that he agreed to personally pay $3,500 of the tuition, according to prosecutors.
But despite the agreement, he allegedly submitted and received a county tuition reimbursement of $3,000 for his share of the tuition.
He also is accused of charging the county for meals during the program, even though meals were provided. County policy is not to cover food if it is provided.
The most chilling testimony of the day however came from one of Bustamante’s alleged victims, Jane Doe A. His former secretary testified that Bustamante had tried to forcefulle hug and kiss her while keeping her in his county office.
From the Voice of OC story:
“It was like a bear hug. His arms were around me really tight,” she said in a voice that often was barely audible. Through more than two hours of testimony, she clearly avoided looking directly at Bustamante. Meanwhile, Bustamante directly faced his accuser from his chair at the defense table.
Despite struggling and fighting to block his advance, the former secretary said, Bustamante didn’t let go until he managed to kiss her on the neck.
It felt like “I wasn’t going to be able to get out,” she said, adding she was afraid to report his conduct, in part because she was in a new position on a six-month probationary period and in part because of Bustamante’s influence with top officials.
Read the complete Voice of OC coverage here.
We’ve got to wonder why it is that Bustamante is the only individual facing criminal charges. One would think the the enabling behavior of his direct supervisors and senior management officials would make them accessories to Bustamante’s alleged criminal activity over several years.