It’s time for an independent referee to look into election mess

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What a mess. What a terrible mess.
The contested results of the March District 5 supervisor’s
election and the ensuing investigation have turned into a debacle
that is the stuff of big-city scandal.
What a mess. What a terrible mess.

The contested results of the March District 5 supervisor’s election and the ensuing investigation have turned into a debacle that is the stuff of big-city scandal.

If it weren’t so serious, it could be made into a television soap opera.

So far, the accusations flying around include felony election tampering by supervisor-elect Jaime De La Cruz and his campaign adviser Ignacio Velazquez, a compromising sexual affair by District Attorney John Sarsfield, charges of extortion against lawyer Mike Pekin and an on-again, off-again grand jury probe into the election.

But as the accusations and counter-accusations fly, everyone needs to cool down and think about their actions. Everyone involved needs to set aside their personal gains for a moment and consider what is best for the community.

What is becoming clear is that an outside, independent referee needs to be called in to restore order and separate the personal from the professional. And, as of Monday, that appears to be exactly what is going to happen.

After the De La Cruz camp filed a motion Monday to have Sarsfield removed from the grand jury proceedings, the prosecutor again called off the probe. Now, an investigator’s report that recommends felony charges against De La Cruz and Velazquez for various alleged elections violations will be forwarded to the state Attorney General’s office for consideration.

Barring any more changes – not necessarily a safe bet on this issue – the matter now is in the hands of outside authorities.

Usually, we think the state should let local governments handle their own problems. But not this time.

This is an ugly fight with potential to throw the county into turmoil. It already is putting enormous pressure on the San Benito County District Attorney’s office, which must be able to function to prosecute crime. At some point, it likely will spill over into the Board of Supervisors, taking attention away from serious matters like balancing a $4 million deficit. San Benito County needs a Board of Supervisors and a District Attorney’s office that can focus on the tasks at hand.

So, let’s take a breather, collect ourselves and try to proceed with this case in a civilized fashion.

To respond to this editorial or comment on this issue, please send or bring letters to Editor, Hollister Free Lance, 350 Sixth St., Hollister, Calif. 95023 or fax to 637-4104 or e-mail to [email protected]

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