No Way, Jose: Castaneda Charged with Perjury for Failed Armenta Recall Attempt
June 17, 2011
It's been a rough month for Alisal Unified School District Board President Jose Castaneda. First, his attempt to recall County Supervisor Fernando Armenta failed. Now, he's facing two perjury charges and two counts of filing a false document in said recall attempt.
The charges filed by the Monterey County District Attorney's office, each of which carries a maximim penalty of three years in jail, are the culmination of an investigation by the Monterey County Registrar of Voters, called for by the DA, according to a release from Flippo's office this afternoon. Assistant DA Terry Spitz is the filing attorney on the case.
Castaneda could not immediately be reached for comment.
[View the formal Castaneda complaints here:
"When we get something that impacts public officials, alleged corruption, that normally goes through [Spitz]," Flippo says. "He in fact will not likely be taking the case to trial."
Flippo can't remember a case involving a perjured recall petition, but notes that voter fraud is not unheard of in Monterey County. "We have prosecuted individuals hired both by Democratic party and the Republican party for obtaining false registrations, Flippo says. He adds that school board election fraud has also been a problem in the past, with people from outside certain districts infiltrating to vote during elections.
The recall drama has gripped Alisal USD since April, when Castaneda, a former Armenta ally, and a group of community leaders banded together to form a committee and submit a petition to recall the supervisor. The group, led by Castaneda, alleged that Armenta "Engaged in conflict of interests, quid pro quo political favors, ethics violations and abuse of power,” according to the April 28 notice of intent. Its aim was to get a recall on this November's ballot, but the DA's office stepped in to investigate whether Armenta was properly served. Castaneda claimed he hand-delivered the document to the supervisor’s house, but draft minutes of a Salinas Valley Solid Waste Authority meeting show Armenta was in Gonzalez at the time.
"When Mr. Castaneda came to office and filed his document [in April], and it indicated that he'd served [Armenta] a week earlier, I knew I'd had conversations with the Supervisor where he'd said he hadn't received any papers," says Registrar of Voters Linda Tulett. "That made me feel that it wasn't an accurate document, even though it looked like it met the full face of the law." She called up the DA's office, and the rest is history.
"I appreciate the partnership of the DA in helping us keep the integrity of electoral process," Tulett says. "The recall of an elected official is a very serious process. It's not just a game to me."