The Star-News


The stench lingers and follows us all

Sat, Apr 26 2014 12:00 PM Posted By: Carlos R. Davalos

It’s like a flimsy piece of soiled  toilet paper clinging to the heel of his shoe.

Former Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Castaneda can’t escape the 2008 perjury case that consumed two years of his life and ate up about $200,000 of Chula Vista taxpayers’ money in its defense of him.

This week KPBS reporter Amita Sharma wrote in inewssource.org that in 2005 former Chula Vista Mayor Steve Padilla  received a phone call from District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis asking him to support one of her staffers in his bid to become a member of the City Council.

Padilla told Dumanis her choice—Jesse Navarro—wasn’t a good fit. A short time later the District Attorney’s Office launched an investigation examining the City Council’s doings as a redevelopment entity. No subsequent charges were filed.

But later the DA’s Public Integrity Unit did indict Castaneda for lying to a grand jury.

Castaneda has consistently said his prosecution was politically motivated. At the time few gave his claims credence. Publicly anyway.

But Sharma’s story quotes the prosecutor in the case as saying he believed Padilla thought the case was politically motivated.

Six years after his trial and exoneration, it’s hollow vindication for Castaneda. While it’s pleasant enough to know that his former colleague thought there was a political axe being ground into his neck, it would have been more rewarding to learn of the phone call at the time it allegedly occurred.

Allegedly because so far Dumanis has not confirmed or denied that Padilla’s recollection of events is true. Instead she’s dismissing the story as a political ploy during her re-election campaign.

Had Castaneda and his attorney known about the phone call  certainly they would have asked for the DA’s office to recuse itself from the case.

If that had happened a third party could have investigated the evidence prosecutors gathered and decided not to charge Castaneda. Or charge him regardless of the phone call.

We’ll never know. The uncertainty is troubling.

Equally troubling are the questions that have not yet been paired with answers. Why are we hearing about this phone call now, during Dumanis’ third re-election bid? Why didn’t we hear about this during her run for San Diego mayor? Or when she was seeking re-election four years ago? And why didn’t the prosecutor tell Castaneda’s attorney Marc Carlos about the phone call when he knew about it before the trial?

Carlos and Castaneda this week publicly asked the DA for an accounting of the phone call that may have taken place between her and Padilla. What, if anything, is revealed may tell us more than we already know:

The indictment may be clinging to Castaneda’s shoe like a pesky piece of toilet paper, but for voters the stink of politics lingers.


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