Closing arguments in former mayor’s trial center on conspiracy

Closing arguments in the fraud trial against former San Carlos Mayor Mike King focused on whether he and political consultant Margaret “Peg” Collier were in collusion when Collier submitted false invoices to the South County Fire Protection Authority.

The sample invoice King gave Collier was too detailed to be a hastily prepared example, argued Deputy District Attorney Sean Gallagher. King, in other testimony, has said he told Collier to fill in her own hours and rates before faxing the invoice to then-Belmont City Manager Jere Kersnar.

Meanwhile, Collier, in her own testimony, admitted to billing the Authority for helping firefighters find jobs — work she never did — and claims King told her exactly what to do.

“Peg Collier said she had no intent to defraud,” said Chuck Smith, King’s attorney. “It takes two — if she had no intent, then there is no conspiracy.”

Collier was owed approximately $17,000 for her help in the failed Measure I campaign, which would have raised money for the Authority and prevented the layoffs of several firefighters. Collier has since pleaded guilty to misdemeanor fraud charges, and her upcoming sentence depends upon her agreement to testify truthfully in the felony case against King.

Gallagher challenged character witnesses who depicted King as a man of honesty and integrity.

While Collier’s story has remained “relatively consistent” throughout the course of the investigation and trials, King “has an evolution to his story that continues right into this courtroom,” Gallagher said. “They are lies, period.”

Both attorneys said the entire situation could have been avoided.

“There were other ways to get Collier her money,” Gallagher said, referring to discussions about holding a fundraiser or finding Collier legitimate work. “There was a lot of talk, but nothing was ever done.”

Meanwhile, Smith painted Belmont officials as “seeing crime and fraud around every corner,” who took Collier’s invoice to the District Attorney’s Office rather than asking King about it directly.

Closing arguments will conclude this morning, after which the jury will begin its deliberations. If convicted, King faces up to a year in jail.

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