REGION — San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond is under fire for allegations of violating the city’s campaign finance laws, according to an inewsource report.
Desmond, who is considered the frontrunner for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors District 5 race, is being investigated after Realtor Ana Rosvall filed a complaint with the city clerk on May 29.
The complaint alleges Farouk Kubba of Vista San Marcos LLC donated $800 to Desmond’s campaign on June 6, 2017, and Desmond voted for the developer’s controversial San Marcos Highlands project on Nov. 15. In addition, $650 was donated to Desmond by David Hammer and Eric Armstrong, who worked on the Brookfield project.
San Marcos ordinance 2.16.010 prohibits votes within 12 months of receiving a donation or receiving donations within 12 months of a vote.
The city hired a special investigator on May 30 and the complaint has been forwarded to the County Registrar of Voters and California Fair Political Practices Commission.
“I was really happy about that,” Rosvall said of the city opening an investigation. “That was really a pleasant surprise. I think the community feels this way, and seems like politicians do too, is that they are above the law and nobody can do anything about it.”
Desmond, a Republican, is running against fellow Republican and Oceanside City Councilman Jerry Kern and Democrats Jacqueline Arsivaud and Michelle Gomez.
John Hoy, Desmond’s campaign consultant, said the municipal code in question does not apply to elections outside the city. He also said it is clear this is politically motivated since the election is just days away.
“Our position is it just simply doesn’t apply to him,” Hoy said. “That’s a city of San Marcos ordinance drafted to regulate elections in San Marcos. He’s running in the county of San Diego for supervisor under the rules of the county of San Diego. This ordinance is just not applicable in this situation.”
He said Desmond’s campaign director, who is also an attorney, is working on the case. Desmond’s camp has yet to send a formal letter to the city attorney (as of publication), but will do so in the coming days.
“San Marcos, or any other city for that matter, cannot write any campaign finance law or any other law that affects what goes on in any other jurisdiction,” Hoy said. “This rule applies to people who are candidates for office in San Marcos.”
Rosvall disagrees with Desmond’s camp about the application of the law, but said it is in the hands of the special investigator to apply the law.
Rosvall, who lives in San Diego County, said she was made aware of the allegations through several residents last week. They were afraid to file due to potential “repercussions,” Rosvall said, so she decided to file the complaint.
In addition, Rosvall said several other allegations were dropped because of the statute of limitations. However, she said others may soon come forward to file other complaints of alleged improprieties.
“We’ve known that Jim Desmond has been involved in some pretty shady dealings for a long time,” Rosvall said. “We just didn’t have any proof of it. I was given the information and came forward and filed.”
Rosvall sits on the board of the Twin Oaks Valley Community Sponsor group, which is a nonpartisan appointed by the Board of Supervisors responsible for land use and planning in unincorporated areas of the county. Rosvall, though, said she is a democrat, but the decision to file has nothing to do with politics.
“I’m trying to keep developers in accordance with our General Plan,” she said. “It has nothing to do with party affiliation. We wish we could’ve gotten that out sooner. To us, it feels like it’s too late. It was a struggle to find someone to come forward.”
Arsivaud, meanwhile, slammed Desmond for instituting an alleged pay-to-play environment in San Marcos.
“This pay-for-play access my opponent has been accused of in San Marcos is one reason I entered this race,” Arsivaud said on Twitter. “We need new leadership at the BOS to bring back public trust.”
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.