Lawyers' bills
mounting for ethics

Jun 02, 2007
by Tanya Mannes

CHULA VISTA -- Chula Vista
spent $411,261 in the last 14
months for outside lawyers
who represented city officials
questioned by the district
attorney's newly formed Public
Integrity Unit.

District Attorney Bonnie
Dumanis created the unit in
early 2006 to investigate
public corruption allegations
throughout San Diego County.

To date, the unit has
indicted one person --
Jason Moore, an aide to
former Chula Vista Mayor
Steve Padilla -- on
perjury charges.

Since March 2006, the city
paid 11 law firms to represent
employees who testified before
the unit's criminal grand jury,
according to information the
San Diego Union-Tribune
obtained through a California
Public Records Act request.

City Attorney Ann Moore
provided the bill totals
but not the attorneys'
invoices or contracts,
saying they are protected
by attorney-client

The city is required under
state law to provide legal
representation to its officials
and employees who are
involved in litigation related to
their official duties.

"We have no choice but to hire
private attorneys to perform
whatever type of legal work is
necessary," Moore said.

She said the work can't be
done in-house "because our
office represents the city, not
the individual employees or

"There needs to be some
accountability on these
secret investigations
the resources attached to them,"
Ramirez said. "We need to get
some answers from the District
Attorney's Office about whether
or not these investigations are

Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox
said most of the decisions to
hire outside counsel were
made before she took office in

"Since much of this was acted
on by a previous City Council,
it is pretty hard for me to know
whether it is justified," she said.

Cox noted that the city can
force an employee or official to
pay back the money "if the
person was found to be acting
outside the scope of their
employment, or doing
something illegal."

...Prosecutor Patrick
O'Toole, who heads the
Public Integrity Unit, has

focused much of his energy on
Chula Vista. He subpoenaed
nine witnesses in seeking the
indictment of Jason Moore,
which was part of a larger
investigation involving more
witnesses, according to grand
jury transcripts released after
the indictment. Moore pleaded
not guilty in April.

Last month, Castaneda said
the unit had initiated three
separate investigations of him
in the last year. He accused
Dumanis of targeting him for
political reasons and
pressuring him to resign. He
has not been charged with a

City attorneys in
San Diego, Imperial
Beach, Solana
Beach, Lemon

National City, Del Mar,
Santee, Carlsbad,
Oceanside and San
Marcos said there
have been no Public
Integrity Unit
investigations in their

Chula Vista's legal bills
come as the city prepares
to cut its budget because
of a slowdown in new home

Cox recently called for
austerity, saying she is
prepared to fund "little other
than core services" for several

[Maura Larkins' note:  Cox
clearly believes that
lawyers are at the top of
the list of core services.]

In a prepared
Dumanis... defended
the Public Integrity

"The public has a right to
expect that their public officials
are not breaking the law,"
Dumanis said. "Protecting and
vindicating this right is one of
the most important priorities in
the District Attorney's Office,
and the Public Integrity Unit
continues to ensure that this is

(see table below)
City of Chula Vista
San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie
Dumanis has given
Patrick O'Toole free
rein to use her office for political
purposes, attacking opponents and
looking the other way for friends.
The D.A.'s office has focused on Chula Vista, and has
indicted only two people, both of whom were involved in
running campaigns against current mayor Cheryl Cox.  
One of them was indicted for perjury for taking two hours
off work, and then saying he filed his leave slip BEFORE he
took off, when he actually filed it AFTER.  

This author sees this as the epitome of malicious
vindictiveness carried out on the taxpayer's dime.
The irony is that
Cheryl Cox herself
has committed,

according to this author's
evidence and understanding
of the law,  not just
subornation of perjury, but
multiple other crimes as well,
making her far more guilty
than the employee who took
two hours off work.

This author reported her
findings to Bonnie Dumanis,
and quoted from the law to
make the illegalities clear,
but Bonnie Dumanis wrote
back saying no violations of
law had occurred.

Why is Bonnie Dumanis
protecting Cheryl Cox from
obstruction of justice

Why is Bonnie Dumanis
attacking Cheryl Cox's
political opponents?

Clearly, Bonnie Dumanis has
turned the District Attorney's
office into a Republican
campaign headquarters
rivaling that of disgraced and
resigned US Attorney
General Alberto Gonzalez.
Castaneda says DA's
probes are ploy

charges,' he claims

By Tanya Mannes

May 12, 2007

Chula Vista City
Councilman Steve
Castaneda said
yesterday that
District Attorney
Bonnie Dumanis
investigated him
three times in the
last year to try to
force him to resign.

Castaneda contends that
Dumanis conspired with
Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl
Cox, his opponent in last
year's election. Castaneda
hasn't stated an intention to
challenge Cox in the next
mayoral race, but many
expect him to do so.

Steve Castaneda  
In a statement e-mailed to
the media, Castaneda said
Patrick O'Toole, who leads
the Public Integrity Unit at
the District Attorney's
Office, began targeting him
in March 2006 in a “political
witch hunt.”

Castaneda said O'Toole
initiated three
investigations of him and
subpoenaed him three
times to testify before the
criminal grand jury
regarding “completely
unsubstantiated charges
raised by political
opponents with deep
political connections.”

“I'm up for re-election in
2008, and I'm sure that the
Coxes and their political
allies would like nothing
better than for me to run
with a cloud over my head
or flat-out resign,”
Castaneda said.

He said O'Toole recently
offered him a choice: Step
down from office
immediately or he would
charge him with a felony.
Castaneda said his
attorney advised him not to
comment further on the
deal, including what the
felony charge would be.

Castaneda said the
lengthy, expensive process
of fighting a felony charge
would take a toll on his
family's reputation and his
career – even if he
prevailed in court.

Patrick O'Toole
“The DA knows this, and
they are leveraging that
reality in an attempt to
achieve the political
outcome they seek,” he

Castaneda said Dumanis is
part of the county's “old
power structure” that
includes Cheryl Cox's
husband, county
Supervisor Greg Cox, who
has budget authority over
the District Attorney's
Office, he said.

O'Toole declined to
comment on Castaneda's

“We don't comment on
investigations or the status
of grand jury matters,” he

Dumanis also declined to
comment, according to her
spokesman, Paul Levikow.

Last year, Cheryl Cox and
Castaneda ran in the Chula
Vista mayoral primary in an
effort to unseat incumbent
Mayor Steve Padilla.
Castaneda received 25
percent of the votes in the
June 6 primary, which
wasn't enough for him to
proceed to the runoff. Cox
won in November.

Cox said yesterday that
Castaneda's allegations
came as a surprise.

“I don't know what he's
talking about,” she said.

She said she considers
Castaneda a colleague, not
a rival, and noted that both
share the goal of
demolishing the South Bay
Power Plant.

“The race with me and
Steve was over in June,”
Cox said.

Castaneda said O'Toole's
three investigations
focused on an apartment
that Castaneda rented for
his wife in Sunbow Villas;
property that he purchased
in 2005 with Chula Vista
resident Henry Barros; and
his role as a board member
of the Chula Vista
Redevelopment Corp.

Castaneda has been a City
Council member since
2004. He is a transportation
and land-use consultant
who was once an aide to
Ron Roberts, the former
San Diego councilman who
is now a county supervisor.

“I am not a wealthy man,
and this pretense has cost
me personally thousands of
dollars in legal fees, not to
say what it has cost the
taxpayers,” Castaneda said.

He said he has spent
$15,000 on attorney fees,
and the city hired council
for him and other city
officials who were forced to
testify in the investigations.

Shortly after his
announcement was sent
out, Castaneda attempted
to remove one statement in
it. In a subsequent e-mail,
he said that the news
release should not have
stated that O'Toole
threatened to charge him
with a felony if he didn't
resign. The information is
true, but it “may be deemed
privileged,” he said.

Dumanis established the
Public Integrity Unit in early
2006 to root out public
corruption involving
violations of state law in
San Diego County.

Last year, O'Toole began
using the county's criminal
grand jury early in his
investigations as a fact-
finding body. The grand
jury has the authority to
issue subpoenas, and
witnesses testify under oath.

Previously in San Diego
County, the criminal grand
jury was presented with the
results of a district
attorney's investigation as
a final step in getting an
indictment. Now the grand
jury gets involved much
earlier, before prosecutors
have determined whether
any crime was committed.

O'Toole is a former federal
prosecutor who previously
served as the U.S. attorney
in San Diego. He
developed the new
procedure based in part on
the federal model and on
procedures used in Los
Angeles and Santa Clara
counties, he said.

The criminal grand jury has
19 members. A new group
is convened every 30 days,
selected by lot from the trial-
juror pool. Jurors' identities
are kept confidential.

It's unrelated to the
county's civil grand jury,
which examines how local
government agencies are
doing their assigned tasks.
Members of that group,
also called the Blue Ribbon
Panel, are nominated by
judges and serve a full year.
Strangely secret
"Public Integrity
Unit" has prosecuted
only two individuals--
both political
opponents of Cheryl

There was no
wrongdoing revealed by
the investigations;   
"crimes" were
generated by the

DA unit works as
quietly as it began

By Tanya Mannes
May 20, 2007

Last year, District Attorney
Bonnie Dumanis quietly created
a Public Integrity Unit, which
uses a criminal grand jury to
look into the most serious
allegations of government
corruption throughout the

In existence about 14 months, it
has filed charges against one
person: Jason Moore, a former
Chula Vista mayoral aide.

...Patrick O'Toole, the
prosecutor who leads the unit,
has said that the Moore case
was part of “an ongoing
investigation into the possible
misuse of government
resources, money and time in
Chula Vista.”

...[Dumanis] promised that in
the future, in most cases, “we
will not investigate a complaint
until after an election.”

That wasn't the case last year.
The investigation of Moore
began in August, while he was
an aide to Chula Vista Mayor
Steve Padilla and working on
his re-election campaign,
according to the grand jury
transcript unsealed April 12.
Castaneda said the
investigations of him began in
March 2006, as he was
campaigning for mayor.

The public has been given little
information about the unit's
The investigations that
focused on Moore and
Castaneda began before
Dumanis announced the
Public Integrity Unit existed.
She did that March 1.

Moore was indicted March 27.
He has pleaded not guilty to five
felony perjury charges.

The 732-page grand jury
transcript shows the
investigation began in August,
shortly after The San Diego
Union-Tribune reported that
Moore was caught spying on an
Aug. 3 fundraiser for Padilla's
political opponent, Cheryl Cox,
who went on to beat the
incumbent in the November
election. O'Toole was looking
into whether Moore was on city
time that day.

Based on the investigation,
O'Toole doesn't dispute that
Moore ultimately took the time
off but contends he lied in
sworn testimony about when he
submitted a request for
personal leave.

“If someone lies to a grand jury,
they're going to be charged with
perjury,” O'Toole said.

In seeking the indictment of
Moore, O'Toole questioned
witnesses on seven days from
March 8-26, according to the
transcript. The grand jury
considered testimony from
Moore; Padilla; Padilla's chief of
staff, Tom Oriola; city records
custodian Louis Vignapiano;
Marcia Raskin, the city Human
Resources director; Natalie
Flores, the City Council's
executive secretary; Chad
Blum, Padilla's campaign
manager; Don Giaquinto, a
Padilla campaign worker; and
Mike Goloskie, an investigator
with the district attorney's
special investigations unit.

'Political witch hunt'

Castaneda said the Public
Integrity Unit spent 14 months
investigating three separate
allegations against him. O'Toole
subpoenaed Castaneda and
other witnesses to testify about
an apartment Castaneda rented
for his wife; property he
purchased as a business
venture in 2005 with Chula
Vista resident Henry Barros;
and his role as a board member
of the Chula Vista
Redevelopment Corp.
He has not been charged with a

On May 11, Castaneda issued
a public statement accusing
Dumanis of leading a “political
witch hunt” against him. He
alleged that Dumanis conspired
with Cox to begin targeting him
in March 2006, when he was
running against Cox in the
mayoral primary. He said Cox's
husband, county Supervisor
Greg Cox, influences Dumanis
because the Board of
Supervisors controls the district
attorney's budget.

Castaneda said Dumanis was
using the unit to force him to
resign. He said O'Toole recently
offered him a deal: Resign
immediately, and he would not
charge him with a felony...

Dumanis formed the Public
Integrity Unit in early 2006,
when she assigned O'Toole, a
former federal prosecutor who
previously served as the U.S.
attorney in San Diego, to
develop a way to handle the
sensitive cases in which public
officials are accused of criminal
wrongdoing. The unit now
comprises two full-time
prosecutors and one part-time
prosecutor within the Special
Operations Division.
Dumanis said it's a way to “let
people know that we are

O'Toole is using the criminal
grand jury in the earliest stages
of investigations, a tactic based
on the federal model and
procedures used in Los
Angeles and Santa Clara

The grand jury proceedings, in
which witnesses testify under
oath, take place behind closed
doors to protect those accused
of crimes, Dumanis said.

“We have complex
investigations that take months,
sometimes years,” she said.
“We don't want reputations
tarnished before our
investigation is finished.”

When Dumanis announced the
Public Integrity Unit on March 1,
she said it had been “a work in
progress” for more than a year.
She has said she wanted to wait
until after last year's November
elections to announce the unit.
The announcement was further
delayed because of the
holidays and her busy

The District Attorney's Office
estimates that it has prosecuted
50 cases involving public
officials and employees since
Dumanis took office in 2003.
Trial and re-
election bid could

Castaneda to
decide soon on

By Tanya Mannes
San Diego Union Tribune
September 23, 2007

Chula Vista City
Steve Castaneda, who has
pleaded not guilty to felony
perjury charges, expects to
go forward with a high-
stakes trial in February – at
the same time he could be
running for re-election.

Castaneda's four-year term
expires at the end of 2008. A
primary election for his seat
will be held in June.

This past June, a county
grand jury indicted
Castaneda on 13 felony
perjury counts related to his
sworn testimony during an
investigation into his
residency in the Sunbow
Villas apartment complex
while it was being converted
to condos.

Castaneda allegedly lied to
the grand jury about whether
he intended to buy one of
the condos. In an unrelated
matter handled by the grand
jury, Castaneda was also
indicted on two
misdemeanor counts of
failing to disclose income
from selling a vacant lot.

Castaneda, who has vowed
to fight the charges, said he
will announce in the next few
weeks whether he will run for
a second term.

“It is very clear that I have
not finished the work I
promised the voters I would
do as their representative,
and I intend to work very
hard to do that,” he said

If he is found guilty on all
counts, he faces up to 52
years in prison and would
have to resign from the City
Council. However, both the
prosecution and the defense
say that in this case, if
there's a conviction, any
sentence would entail little or
no prison time.

Two Chula Vista residents
have filed papers to run for
Castaneda's seat: Pat
Moriarty, a health care
professional; and Richie
Macias, a business owner.
The candidate nomination
period doesn't close until
March 7.

Prosecutor Patrick O'Toole,
who heads District Attorney
Bonnie Dumanis' Public
Integrity Unit, sought the
indictment. He said it will be
“an interesting trial.”

“We'll get a glimpse into the
seamier workings of politics
and the political world,” he

A trial was originally set for
October. But Castaneda's
attorney, Marc Carlos, asked
to move the date because of
a scheduling conflict. The
two sides have agreed to a
trial date of Feb. 25.

Carlos said he sees legal
flaws in O'Toole's case.

“The main issue here is
materiality,” Carlos said.
20 years of criminal
defense, I have never
seen a case where the
underlying action is legal.
Mr. Castaneda did
nothing wrong – and Pat
O'Toole even says that in
the grand jury

The felony counts against
Castaneda are related to his
grand jury testimony during
O'Toole's yearlong

O'Toole was looking into
allegations that
Castaneda used his office
to receive special
treatment from the owner
of the Sunbow Villas
apartment complex.
Castaneda was a tenant
at the complex and was
accused of seeking
favors, such as free rent,
from Sunbow owner Ash
Israni, according to the
1,200-page grand jury

The investigation found
that Castaneda paid his
rent and didn't ask for
special treatment.

O'Toole told the grand jury
the perjury charges are
warranted because
Castaneda should be held
accountable for “lying about
the facts” even if no crime
was uncovered.

During O'Toole's
questioning, Castaneda
answered “no” when asked
several times under oath if
he had thought about buying
one of the Sunbow
condominiums while he was
a tenant at the complex.
O'Toole said that was a lie
because Castaneda had
asked about the price of the
condominiums even though
he didn't ultimately buy one,
according to at least one
witness interviewed by the
grand jury.

Carlos said the numerous
felony counts are troubling,
considering it would have
been legal for Castaneda to
buy a condo.

“They're bringing this guy in,
they're investigating him,
they're finding there's
nothing he did wrong – but
they turn around and charge
him anyway,” Carlos said.
“It's scary that they can do

Castaneda, 48, is a
transportation and land-use
consultant who is one of four
part-time City Council
members. He rented the
apartment in Sunbow for
about a year, beginning in
August 2005.

The two misdemeanor
counts are related to
omissions on Castaneda's
economic interest
statements, which all elected
officials must file. He didn't
report the $30,000 he made
from selling a vacant lot at
40 L St. in a joint venture in
2005 with Chula Vista
resident Henry Barros, the
indictment says.

Castaneda has been
vocal about O'Toole's
investigations, saying
they are politically
motivated. He contended
that Dumanis conspired
with Chula Vista Mayor
Cheryl Cox, his political
rival in the 2006 mayoral
From "Blog of San Diego"

Bonnie Dumanis and
Chula Vista

The story the U-T does not
want you to read -
Dumanis and Chula Vista
by Pat Flannery

...letter being presented to the
Chula Vista City Council on
December 18, 2007. Activist
Sonny Chandler, on behalf of
a civic group called the "Chula
Vista Better Government
Association", called upon the
Council to conduct an
investigation into official
corruption in Chula Vista. The
letter was also sent to the
State Attorney General and to
the U.S. Attorney on
December 7, 2007 asking that
" ... conduct an investigation
to determine if there are
conflicts of interests, abuses
of power and prosecutorial
misconduct involving John
Moot, Chula Vista Mayor
Cheryl Cox and the local
District Attorney’s office. For
the reasons listed below, we
are not confident that the
District Attorney’s office or the
City’s Board of Ethics can
perform a fair and impartial
investigation into these

We further request that you
investigate a potential
conspiracy involving former
Chula Vista City
Councilmember John Moot,
the office of District Attorney
Bonnie Dumanis, local land
developer Jim Pieri and Chula
Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox to
deprive Chula Vista voters of
good government by abusing
their positions and power to
improperly influence and
intimidate elected officials and
community groups on behalf
of the proposed condominium
high rise."

It makes interesting reading,
especially the parts about
Bonnie Dumanis and Pat
O'Toole. The civic group
suspects that Dumanis and
O'Toole may have filed bogus
charges against Chula Vista
City Councilmember Steve
Castaneda, at the behest of a
well-connected Chula Vista
developer named Jim Pieri,
who apparently wanted
"someone more likely to
approve his projects" on the
City Council. A natural
reaction for an ambitious

The group reports that Pieri
contributed $15,050 to the
Lincoln Club of San Diego
County during Cox's
campaign who in turn
contributed $51,000 to Cox.
Yep, that's how it works.

I was also informed that the U-
T refused to run the story,
despite the fact that the
"Chula Vista Better
Government Association" did
all the work. It compiled these
334 pages of back up material
and obviously did its
research. This story should
be the kind of juicy political
yarn any red-blooded
newspaper would love to run.
And it is all documented.

Pieri is now leasing office
space to the DA in Chula
Vista at $71,328 per month.
That's a pretty nice lease.
Here it is. Interesting how
Dumanis ended up renting
from Pieri.

I have a feeling we have not
heard the last of this story. I
wonder why the U-T did not
want you to read it. Are they
protecting Dumanis? Well,
here it is anyway, all 334
pages of it.
Chula Vista
councilman's perjury
trial to go forward

The felony perjury trial of
Chula Vista Councilman
Steve Castaneda will go
forward as scheduled
April 7, placing in limbo
his candidacy for re-

Castaneda's attorney,
Marc Carlos, filed a
motion to dismiss the
charges on the grounds
that the alleged perjury is
not connected to any
crime. This week,
Superior Court Judge
Michael Wellington
denied the motion,
allowing the trial to go

“My client has rejected
plea offers and he's
going to assert his
constitutional right to go
to trial,” Carlos said.

If convicted of a felony,
Castaneda would be
ineligible to serve on the
council. His three
challengers in the June 3
election are Patricia
Aguilar, president of the
civic group Crossroads II;
Pat Moriarty, a medical
supervisor; and Scott
Vinson, chief executive of
Coldwell Banker Royal

The District Attorney's
Office indicted
Castaneda last year on
perjury charges after a
grand jury investigation
into his residency in the
Sunbow Villas complex in
Chula Vista. The complex
was being converted to
Prosecutor Patrick
O'Toole contends that
Castaneda lied several
times in sworn testimony
when he said he didn't
intend to purchase a
condo, even though
Castaneda ultimately
didn't buy one. –T.M.
Steve Castaneda
SD Education Rprt Blog
McCann is deputy mayor;
Miesfeld city attorney

San Diego Union Tribune
Dec. 13, 2008

The City Council this week
named Councilman John
McCann deputy mayor as
part of the annual City
Council reorganization.

The position was previously
held by Jerry Rindone,
whose term ended this

The council appointed
Bart Miesfeld city
attorney. He had been
filling in as interim city
attorney since Ann
Moore retired earlier
this year.

In November, voters
approved making the job
an elected position. An
election for the post is
planned for 2010.
La Bella & McNamara,

Luce Forward, $67,458

McKenna Long & Aldrich,

Morrison & Foerster,

Frank Vecchione, $29,481

Total: $411,261
Baker & McKenzie,

Benjamin L. Coleman,

Cooley Godward, $6,105

Coughlan Semmer &
Lipman, $49,782

Irell & Manella, $19,782

Knut Johnson, $13,413
My blog posts about City of Chula Vista
South Bay Review
June 5, 2004

Chula Vista Police
Department hired
8’s Liz Purcell
to serve as
the public information officer
for the city. Purcell has also
served as the spokesperson
for former District Attorney
Paul Pfingst.