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Private investigator contends councilman is corrupt Jon Campbell | Sun, May 16 2010 01:44 PM

A candidate for state assembly in the 79th district is calling for the resignation of Chula Vista Interim City Councilman Mitch Thompson saying he violated conflict of interest laws.

In a complaint filed with the San Diego County District Attorney and the city's Ethics Commission, Derrick Roach, who earlier this year applied for the seat Thompson currently holds, alleges that Thompson cast votes that could have affected properties in which the interim council member holds an ownership stake.

The complaint alleges that on four different occasions Thompson cast votes on land use designations for areas within 500 feet of properties he owns.

State conflict of interest laws require officials to abstain from votes on properties within that perimeter.

Changes in zoning designation can have an effect on property values, potentially benefiting the owners of nearby parcels.

Roach's complaint contains no evidence that Thompson in fact received any financial benefit.

Documents distributed by Roach indicate that Thompson did disclose his ownership in the properties in question.

Thompson, who is currently running for a position on the Southwestern College governing board, said Tuesday night that he hadn't seen the complaint filed against him.

Asked if it was possible he had violated the rules, Thompson hedged, but insisted he had never deliberately done anything to benefit himself financially while serving as an appointed official.

"I'm not an expert on that part of the conflict of interest law ... it's possible that anybody violated the rules unless someone points it out to you. But I have not knowingly violated any rule," Thompson said.

The councilman said he would not resign, and called the allegations ridiculous in an email message Wednesday.

Roach, who is a private investigator by trade, accused Thompson of "corruption" in his public statements before the council Tuesday, and called for an investigation.

"Mr. Thompson abused his public position, and essentially engaged in activities that would be considered insider trading ... if Mr. Thompson was a stock broker, he would have been indicted, convicted and on his way to jail," said Roach.

City Attorney Bart Miesfeld said he had not seen the allegations against Thompson and would not comment on their merits.

Council members are required to disclose to the city a list of the properties they own, and can seek guidance from the city attorney as to when a conflict may arise.

Miesfeld, however, said it was the responsibility of individual elected officials to monitor when they should recuse themselves from a vote.

"If what he was voting on was a project within 500 feet of his property, then generally that raises a flag whether or not there's a conflict of interest," said Miesfeld.

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