DA sends probe to state

Sixteen days after pledging to refer a probe of the District 5
supervisor’s race to the Attorney General’s Office, District
Attorney John Sarsfield on Wednesday said he was preparing to send
a report asking the state to investigate allegations of election
fraud.
Sixteen days after pledging to refer a probe of the District 5 supervisor’s race to the Attorney General’s Office, District Attorney John Sarsfield on Wednesday said he was preparing to send a report asking the state to investigate allegations of election fraud.

Sarsfield notified county supervisors of his intentions Tuesday and told them he planned to send the report to the state Wednesday, according to supervisors Reb Monaco and Ruth Kesler.

Sarsfield on Wednesday afternoon said he would finish preparing the documents “any moment.” But he declined to specify what would be included, calling it “confidential.”

His plans to deliver the report to the state comes within a week of the Free Lance reporting neither the Attorney General’s Office nor the FBI had received anything about the matter.

Sarsfield vowed to refer a probe of Supervisor-elect Jaime De La Cruz and his campaign adviser to the state, and a claim lawyer Mike Pekin extorted him to the FBI. A spokesman with the FBI’s San Francisco division didn’t return calls Wednesday, though the office last week knew nothing about the local scandal.

Sarsfield declared his intentions after Pekin filed a court motion May 24 on behalf of the De La Cruz camp.

They alleged Sarsfield was having an affair with his office manager that compromised his objectivity in overseeing a grand jury to consider charges against De La Cruz and Ignacio Velazquez. The motion led Sarsfield to disqualify himself because the highly personal allegation created a conflict of interest that prejudiced his judgment.

With a supervisor’s race at stake, questions have arisen whether Sarsfield has treated the matter with appropriate urgency. But Sarsfield on Wednesday said there was “a lot of material to compile.”

“It hasn’t been that long,” Sarsfield said. “We don’t just rush around like chickens with their heads cut off.”

Speculation over a few ballots after the March 2 election exploded into a full-blown probe of De La Cruz and Velazquez, a grand jury being scheduled then canceled and the allegation of Sarsfield having an inner-office affair. De La Cruz beat incumbent Bob Cruz by 10 votes in the race.

The Board of Supervisors in March requested the probe by inspector Aaron Tripp into allegations that De La Cruz and Velazquez improperly returned ballots. Tripp’s report recommended felony charges against both men for an array of alleged elections violations. And his findings were used as the basis for the grand jury proceedings that were eventually canceled.

Kesler isn’t bothered by Sarsfield taking more than two weeks to send his report to the state, she said.

“It takes time to put that all together,” she said. “How long does it take you to write a good article? He has to be so careful that everything is correct.”

But a civil matter that could determine who ultimately sits on the board next year largely depends on the investigation’s progress. Cruz’s wife, Marian, is trying to nullify the election through a lawsuit making many of the same claims that are in Tripp’s report.

Former District Attorney Harry Damkar represents Marian Cruz. She was “very much” disappointed Sarsfield hadn’t sent the probe to the state, Damkar said. He has awaited the completion of the investigation so he could analyze Tripp’s findings. He believes a lack of urgency “may have compromised and jeopardized” Cruz’s case.

Bob Cruz did not return calls placed to his cell phone Wednesday. And De La Cruz declined to comment.

Velazquez said Sarsfield’s office “can’t be trusted” and reiterated his previous sentiments about the probe.

“As soon as they investigate this they’re going to see the truth,” he said.

Timeline of events

Week of May 3

District Attorney John Sarsfield receives an investigative report and calls for a grand jury June 1-3 to consider felony charges against Jaime De La Cruz and his adviser Ignacio Velazquez for alleged elections code violations.

May 20

Velazquez and De La Cruz’s lawyer Mike Pekin and Sarsfield strike deal to cancel the grand jury. Pekin agrees not to file court documents alleging that an inner-office affair compromises the DA’s objectivity.

May 21

Sarsfield reverses the deal and continues plans to hold and oversee the grand jury. He claims he was extorted by Pekin and says he asked the FBI to investigate.

May 24

Velazquez files motion to disqualify Sarsfield. It includes claims that Sarsfield is having an affair that compromises his objectivity and that the prosecutor is trying to please the Board of Supervisors by pursuing the probe into the De La Cruz election. Sarsfield cancels the grand jury and says he is referring the investigation to the state.

June 3

Both the Attorney General’s Office and the FBI say they haven’t received anything from Sarsfield. The FBI knows nothing of the extortion charge, an agent says.

June 9

Sarsfield says he’s putting finishing touches on a report he’s sending to the AG’s Office.

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