Daly City Councilwoman Maggie Gomez will be forced to leave office after she pleaded no contest Friday morning to two counts of felony workers’ compensation fraud, San Mateo County’s district attorney said.
“Public officials are held to a very high standard, and when they do violate the law, as occurred here, they have to be held accountable,” District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.
Gomez entered her pleas in court Friday morning, just more than a week before she was scheduled to go to trial on 16 felony charges, which could have sent her to prison for more than five years if she was convicted.
Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, Gomez will face up to six months in county jail for pleading no contest to two counts of making false or fraudulent statements to obtain insurance.
The felony convictions automatically disqualify Gomez, who was re-elected to a new four-year term in November, from her city council position under state law. She is set to be sentenced by Judge Lisa Novak on May 3.
“From our perspective, it’s a very good resolution of the case,” Wagstaffe said. “The two felonies accurately reflect the conduct she engaged in.”
Prosecutors say Gomez, 56, filed a worker’s compensation claim in 2005 saying she was injured at her job as a patient relations manager at Seton Medical Center in Daly City. Investigators say Gomez was later seen doing things she claimed her injury prevented her from doing, such as lifting groceries and exercising, and made false statements to insurance company officials and a workers’ compensation board.
Reached Friday by phone, Gomez declined to comment, citing the advice of her attorney.
Rains said Gomez planned to send a letter resigning her City Council position either Friday or Monday.
While Gomez had a “legitimate, verified” meniscus tear that had to be surgically repaired, prosecutors had video that appeared to show her walking without pain, Rains said.
He said much of the evidence in the case would be subject to the jury’s interpretation and advised Gomez that she had a “serious risk of getting a conviction on one or more of the charges” if she went to trial.
A jury “could certainly conclude that her statements made to some of the insurance people concerning her condition seemed inconsistent with some of the video evidence that was out there,” Rains said.
Now, Rains said Gomez feels “a great sense of relief,” even though she is facing jail time.
“She wants to make restitution, she wants to satisfy any of the terms of her probation, of course, and move on with her life,” Rains said. “She told me today she’s had it with politics.”Friday was the deadline prosecutors gave to Gomez and defense attorney Michael Rains for taking a plea deal before her scheduled March 7 trial, Wagstaffe said. Rains called Thursday afternoon to schedule a hearing for Friday morning, he said.
The top prosecutor said neither he nor former District Attorney Jim Fox knew of another case during their careers — going back more than four decades — in which a San Mateo County public official was forced from office because of a felony conviction.
Daly City Attorney Rose Zimmerman previously said the City Council can choose either an appointment or a special election to fill a vacancy on the council. But an appointee would hold the seat only until a special election could be held, such as the next regularly scheduled election, Zimmerman said.