SAN MARCOS — Mayor Jim Desmond has been cleared of wrongdoing after an independent investigation found no “probable cause” to validate claims he violated campaign finance laws concerning his bid for the District 5 seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.
The complaint was filed on May 29 by Realtor Ana Rosvall, among others, who claimed Desmond violated the city’s municipal code (2.16.010), which prohibits votes within 12 months of receiving a donation or receiving donations within 12 months of a vote. Rosavall’s complaint alleged Desmond accepted campaign donations from several sources prior to votes on development projects in the city.
“Unfortunately, it was a last-minute campaign hit,” Desmond said. “An independent Elections Council was able to determine very quickly that there was no wrongdoing and I’ve been cleared of all allegations. So, we’re going to continue full speed ahead with the campaign.”
Desmond, a republican, is running against Oceanside City Councilman Jerry Kern, also a republican, and Democrats Jacqueline Arsivaud and Michelle Gomez. Many consider Desmond the frontrunner for the June 5 primary. On June 2, Desmond continued his campaign by reaching out to voters.
“We are phone calling, we’ve got several people walking precincts,” Desmond said. “We’re making sure people are going to get out and vote.”
A letter to Desmond from investigators dated June 1 confirmed he did not violate any ordinances. The independent Elections Council verified what Desmond and his campaign believed since the complaint was filed.
John Hoy, Desmond’s campaign consultant, said on May 31 the municipal code in question does not apply to elections outside the city. The code, he added, only applies to candidates running for election in a city race, and not any other jurisdiction.
Also, Hoy said Desmond’s attorney, who is also his campaign director, did not send a formal letter to the Elections Council or have any contact with investigators.
“Our position is it just simple doesn’t apply to him,” he said on May 29. “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.”
A letter from the law firm, states the alleged violations in question are not covered in the municipal code, are barred by the statute of limitations or will be by next Tuesday (June 5) and no sufficient facts to “demonstrate probable cause.” In addition, the letter states the amount of campaign contributions apply only to municipal elections, which has been the position of Desmond and Hoy since May 29.
The complaint alleged Farouk Kubba of Vista San Marcos LLC donated $800 to Desmond’s campaign on June 6, 2017, and Desmond voted for the controversial San Marcos Highlands project on Nov. 15, 2017. In addition, $650 was donated to Desmond by David Hammer and Eric Armstrong, who worked on the Brookfield project.
“I’m pretty disappointed,” Rosvall said of the investigation. “I feel that these laws should be applied to all elections. It seems like no matter what you do, they’re one step ahead of you.”
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.