Two weeks after being cleared on charges of using his clout to avoid five years' worth of fees and fines for carrying out a dozen projects on his property without the required building permits, National City council member Jerry Cano has been hit with a complaint seeking a probe of whether he's run afoul of federal election laws.
Filed on Aug. 7 by Rodolfo Lopez Jr., who left his job with the the National City government in 2010 after seven years as a neighborhood council coordinator and an aide to former mayor Nick Inzunza, the complaint alleges that Cano ran for office in partisan elections while on the federal payroll, a violation of the federal Hatch Act.
In a telephone interview, Lopez said he felt that Cano had besmirched National City. Citing an Oct. 29, 2016 story in the weekly Star-News that identified Cano's occupation as a federal contract compliance specialist, Lopez said Cano's status as a U.S. government employee was clear when he ran for his second four-year term on the council, and won.
Though Cano did not run on any particular party platform, Lopez added, the 2016 race became a “de facto” partisan event when an opponent, current council colleague Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, was endorsed by the local Democratic Party. The party backed opponents in Cano's successful run for city council four years earlier, in 2012. The Hatch Act, he argued, generally prohibits federal employees from running for nomination or as candidates for partisan political office.
Sotelo-Solis is on the Nov. 6 ballot as a candidate for mayor.
The Office of Special Counsel on Sept. 5 told me by email that it could not confirm or deny the existence of the filing, which is formally called a “complaint of possible prohibited political activity,” but on Tuesday (Sept. 11) Lopez supplied a copy as well as a receipt that confirmed the complaint had indeed been made. Cano declined comment.
Lopez, who resides not in National City but in San Ysidro, is a candidate for the San Ysidro school district board. Asked if he filed the complaint now to gain some visibility in his school board race, he said the timing and his campaign were not related. He said years of frustration with Cano, who has two years left on his current four-year council term, led to the action.
Cano on July 24 was cleared of wrongdoing by an outside investigator who looked into whether he used the power of his office to escape scrutiny and five years' worth of fines as he undertook a dozen projects on his property without required building permits, including installations of water lines from the dwelling to the pool, a gas line to an outdoor barbecue, and electrical lines for an outdoor television and sound system.