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June 23, 2021

Dabo steps down as president, keeps seat

Hollister Police Department opens new investigation, gets evidence

Mitchell Dabo revealed this week he would not seek election to a third one-year term as president of the San Benito County Board of Education.

Dabo’s revelation, in an interview with the Free Lance on Wednesday, occurred one day after Hollister police confirmed they had opened a criminal probe into Dabo’s handling of a $750,000 charitable trust, and received evidence in the case from District Attorney Candice Hooper.

“We received a binder from the DA’s office,” said Capt. Carlos Reynoso. “It has been referred to the detective sergeant for review.”

Reynoso said no additional complaints about Dabo’s financial planning business have been filed with the Hollister police.

The school board trustees met Thursday to pick a new president. Dabo had told the board he would not be attending the Thursday meeting. He also did not attend the last board meeting, on Nov. 30.

He said he is not resigning from the board. He is up for reelection in 2018.

Dabo has been a county school trustee for 34 years and was elected president by his fellow trustees in December 2015 and December 2016.

Board Vice President Joan Campbell-Garcia was scheduled to preside at Thursday’s school board meeting in Hollister.

The evidence against Dabo—a 217-page binder of bank records, canceled checks and other financial documents from the Matulich Charitable Trust assembled by John Clark, a Morgan Hill lawyer for the Charitable Foundation for San Benito County—was delivered by the Free Lance to Hooper’s office on Nov. 27.

She had told the Free Lance on Nov. 22 that she would assign a forensic accountant to look at Dabo’s handling of finances for the Matulich Trust if she received evidence from the police.

Reynoso said this week Hollister police would review the documents and return them back to the district attorney.

The documents were presented at the Nov. 13 civil trial in San Benito Superior Court in which the judge ruled that Dabo had violated state probate laws when he drained more than $640,000 from the Matulich Charitable Trust for his own purposes, and ordered him to pay a $1.74 million judgment, plus more than $80,000 in legal bills.

Dabo told the Free Lance this week he could not comment about his role as trustee of the Matulich Trust, fearing that anything he might say could impact the criminal investigation.

“I am caught between a rock and a hard place,” he said. Dabo said he cannot afford to hire an attorney. “There’s always two sides.”

But he declined an offer to present his side, except to say he is hopeful the district attorney will decide not to prosecute.

More than a year ago, both Hooper and the police declined to pursue any investigation of Dabo’s handling of the charitable trust, despite pleas from the Community Foundation, which had been designated to receive funds in the trust. The trust was established in 2001 by Barbara and Tony Matulich. Tony Matulich died in 2003 and Barbara Matulich died in 2012, when the balance was to go to the community foundation. Instead, according to the court documents, it was transferred into Dabo’s personal accounts.

“We have always indicated that a forensic accounting analyst is needed to properly bring an investigation to a point where we could develop probable cause and for the DA to be able to prosecute the case,” Reynoso said this week in an email response to Free Lance questions. “We also believe that although the requirements are different, handing over the evidence from the civil case investigation to the DA could quite possibly have enough probable cause for criminal charges. presented in the Dabo case.”

“Furthermore, the DA now has at her disposal a forensic accounting analyst that can help her office,” he said. “At this point, what we should all do is to concentrate on pushing forward what evidence exists toward prosecution.”

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